The lost art of beautiful handwriting
We live in screen-driven world. We work on screens, we communicate through screens, and much of our leisure time is spent staring at a screen, too. As someone whose day job requires me to be on a screen all day (I'm a freelance writer/editor by day) and for whom most workday correspondence involves a keyboard rather than a pen, I often find myself missing the art of writing. Not the craft of creating interesting, engaging prose -- the actual, physical act of writing.
There's something so special about handwriting to me. It's so personal, so unique to each person. When you take the time to write something by hand, it tells the recipient that they are special to you, that they are worth the time, effort, and personal touch necessary to creative something handwritten. Let me tell you a story about the power of the handwritten word...
After my dad died, I felt like a tiny little boat in the middle of an angry ocean, my anchor suddenly and irreversibly cut. I was, as most of you can probably imagine, paralyzed with grief. Although I have many of his personal effects -- his cowboy hat, his Montreal Canadiens blanket, his lighter -- one of my most prized possessions relating to his memory is something most people wouldn't even think about twice. It is something that, had he lived, probably would have been tossed away. But to me, it's something so personal, something uniquely "him," that I not only saved it, but I made a scrapbook layout about it, preserving the item in a place of honour for what I hope will be years and years to come. What was that item? A simple shopping list, a quickly jotted-down list of 3 or 4 items he wanted to remember to buy at the hardware store. I have no idea whether he actually bought them, what he needed them for, etc. But what I do know is that they were written in his handwriting and that, to me, makes it something truly special.
I know what you're thinking: "But I don't like my handwriting! It's sloppy!" Let me be frank about two things: I don't have beautiful handwriting either. It's decent when I stop and take my time, but in an average run of a day when I am forever scribbling down to-do lists, reminders, notes to my daughter's teacher, etc., my handwriting would never, by any standards, be considered beautiful. Second, no one cares. I speak from experience when I say that someday when you are gone and your child finds a card you signed, a note you wrote them, or even a simple grocery list you scratched onto the back of an envelope on the way out the door, they aren't going to look at it and say, "Mom didn't have very nice handwriting." They are going to cherish that little piece of you, something so personal that it could only have come from you.
However, if you do want to work on your handwriting for whatever reason (even if it's just because you are out of practice after having gotten so accustomed to typing and texting) I have a great resource for you: Written by Hand: Techniques to Make Your Everyday Handwriting More Beautiful by Erica Tighe is just the thing you need! The book starts off by exploring the differences in handwriting around the world (which I found very interesting, incidentally) then moves into exercises to examine your existing handwriting, discussions of the anatomy of script, and more. Then, the book offers many different exercises designed to give you the kind of handwriting you can be proud of. It's a great way to relax and unwind in front of the TV, too, and it would make a fantastic thing to throw in your bag for those upcoming trips to the cottage. All you need is a pen or two and the book and you can have hours and hours of screen-free downtime. Perfect!
Handwriting is becoming a lost art, a reality that makes me sad. I love the written word. They don't even teach it in schools anymore. I refuse to succumb to the digital world (ironic, I know, as I am typing this on my computer). I still use a paper planner instead of an app, I write notes to my daughter, I have kept journals, and I appreciate a handwriting note or a signed card probably more than the average person. Let's keep the beautiful art of handwriting alive.