Handwriting is still important

I’ve changed my handwriting style twice in my life.

It’s not perfect but it’s a lot better than when I was an angsty teenager.

But it requires practice. Lots of practice because, otherwise, it reverts, or at least in my case, to the very early days when my teachers got lazy and didn’t impose, as they should have, a Spenciarian style of script or in common parlance, joined-up writing.

Grant you, the rubric is a bit tendentious — how do I know? — but none of us can entirely escape, even in an age of Smart Phones, the need, once in a while, to sign something, write a few words in a card, or (and we normally have to be in the right mood) send a hand-written letter.

But it’s more than a need or even an exercise, it’s more meditative. Or at least that’s how I feel about it; but then if you feel your handwriting is practically unreadable, you may have no desire to send a translation guide with said scrawl.

One thing that still fascinates me is the variety of handwritten scripts. When I get a card or letter from someone, as well as the message, I always try to piece together how they’ve formed the letters and understand which letters have been dropped from the old style to something more modern. I know, it’s a big geeky but all my life I’ve been interested in words, letters, fonts and style. And of course, there’s a difference between someone who writes with their left hand over me, who is right-handed.

I’ve also had a few heroes along the way who’ve inspired me to improve my handwriting. One of one my friends from secondary school, Peter Prowse (I’ve no idea where he is and what’s become of him — how sad) had an early Parker ink pen. I think it was a Parker 51 or something quite similar and he always wrote in Parker Quink ink blue/black. His handwriting was immaculate and I was in awe of it. He was kind enough to let me sit next to him where as well as copying his answers (Chemistry comes to mind) he also shared a few tips on how he formed his letters and made his handwriting so neat. For a while, like all good imitation, my handwriting did improve (I could only afford a Parker Jotter) but it didn’t last. As soon as I left school, I gave up on my handwriting and by the time I got to London (I was 19) — it was the days of typed letters, faxes and photocopying — all that I was left with was to take some pithy notes when I was interviewing someone. Even as a lawyer I didn’t get much chance to practice or improve my handwriting. It was all about speed and my script suffered as a result. It wasn’t until 2017 that I decided once and for all to up my game and watched a series of videos on the OpenInkstand Art and Calligraphy channel and the exceptional handwriting of Schin Loong that I was able a) to change the style of my handwriting and b) radically improve the precision and spacing of the characters (a weak point of mine). Here’s the link if you’re interested. You need to be very patient and her Spenciarian style is not for everyone.

I used to have a daily practice but of late I’ve not been able to keep it up and instead have to make do with my diary entries and Morning Pages. But I still love the time I spend writing. It’s not only therapeutic but it’s one of the few things that brings me immense joy that requires no effort.

From time to time, I think that perhaps I could help others to develop their love of handwriting but that’s preposterous. You’re either drawn to these things or you’re not. But I think the world is a poorer place for the fact that we no longer write in manuscript and share our thoughts in a more visceral and to me at least more meaningful way.

As I age, I realise how hard it is to give up on things but I don’t see me ever not writing by hand and in the end that might be my only real legacy. Namely, I’ve got about 30 journals dotted all over the house that provide, save for my blogging, the most personal and important account of my life.

Right, that’s enough of that: I’m off to make another coffee, rescue a few more pairs of shoes from Eddie and prepare for another day of legal snakes and ladders.



Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash