Writing Longhand: A Love Hate Relationship

I’ve been thinking about how I write. Not my style, but the physical action of writing.

For myself, I make sure that I write at least one page (front and back) in longhand daily. There’s something truly breathtaking to see your words on a sheet of paper in crisp, blue ink. I need to do it. My hands tend to hurt after typing for long periods of time (back in March, I could barely hold a pen due to incessant blogging); longhand is the only thing that makes my hand feel better.

Will I ever write an entire first draft longhand? I’m not sure. My favorite writer, Patrick O’Brian, did. Scores of writers pre-typewriters did (probably all except poor blind Milton who narrated everything).

This isn’t to say that my handwriting is by any means decent. It isn’t. Imagine a chicken’s claw dipped in ink; this chicken has had a few caligraphy lessons and attempts to mimick the hobbit alphabet mixed with standard cursive. There you go.

Cursive is something I struggled with. People say that those children who draw all the time will end up with beautiful penmanship because they know how to hold a pencil; not true. I’m a pretty good artist, by no means Raphael, but good enough to minor in Graphic Design (and yes, I draw everything by hand). Despite my artistic leanings, my handwriting sinks to new lows every year; it is better than my days as a third grader when my teacher kept me in from recess to work on my L’s and Q’s.

There is a beauty in the physically written word that the word processor lacks. While words can appear on the screen quicker, changes can be made, and paper isn’t “wasted,” something is missing. I know people who are only a few years younger than I who do not know how to write in cursive.

Can you imagine only receiving notes from loved ones that are typed and sent across a computer screen? A love email does not have the same weight as a handwritten note, even if the words are the same. Handwriting is personal, it displays time and care. Typing? It’s quick and gets the point across.

That is to say, I do not hate typing. I’m quite proficient in it; I type quicker than I write in longhand. But when writing fiction, I feel as though I don’t put as much effort into it as when I write longhand. See my NaNoWriMo draft from last year (so much fun producing such drivel).

7 thoughts on “Writing Longhand: A Love Hate Relationship

  1. Interesting post, Beth 🙂

    I remember when I knew all my friends’ handwriting. Today it’s different, it truly is, and I agree, it’s sad!

    When I take notes for my own writing, I do so by hand, but not in cursive. I prefer print, always have. And the neatness of my words entirely reveals what sort of writing it is. Whether it’s something that needs to be put straight into the book, whether it’s a note jotted somewhere, whether it’s still ephemeral in my mind, and of course, whether it was scribbled down blind in the middle of the night.

    🙂 Handwriting does rock in a way that print doesn’t. Plus I bet it’s better on one’s eyes than a flickering computer screen… 🙂

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  2. Good for you, Beth! Unfortunately I could never do that. I have the handwriting of a possessed doctor. If I go really really slow and kind of draw the letters it’s readable. But otherwise – nah!

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  3. I do all my writing on my laptop, but I agree with you that the hand longs for the pencil and paper. I keep a paper journal, and when I’m away from the computer, I make notes in longhand. Even so, it’s hard to imagine writing something like War and Peace by hand. On the other hand, the facility of a computer may mean that a lot of junk gets presented that isn’t finished or fully considered.

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