The Lost Art of Handwriting

A struggle I had as a young kid was writing legibly. My handwriting was downright sloppy. Although you might think proper technique can be taught, my teachers, bless their hearts, couldn’t solve my issue. At the point of frustration of not being able to get through to me, my 3rd grade teacher wanted to see if someone else could – she called my dad.

Throughout most of that school year, I spent lots of late nights (meaning until around 8 p.m.) practicing my penmanship with my dad. My teacher sent home worksheets and my dad would go through them with me every evening before I went to bed. I remember those thin pages of the workbook so vividly with the guiding lines and uninspired illustrations. I basically had to copy sentences and it sure got old. My patience would wane and sometimes I would purposely mess up, much to my dad’s chagrin.

But we got through it and made progress. My dad is a self-taught calligrapher with a very elegant writing style and if he couldn’t pass his talent on genetically, he was going to do it through dedicated father-son instruction on the kitchen table. Although my handwriting still wasn’t good at the end of our sessions, it definitely improved.

I still struggled with my penmanship throughout the latter grades of elementary school. However, once middle school started, I made some strides. I started to keep a journal and my handwriting became more important to me. Each night when I opened it up, I took my time making sure that my writing was clear and that it fit neatly within the narrow lines. My penmanship changed from large and messy to small and neat(ish).

Almost 20 years since middle school, I still journal. I feel like this activity has helped keep my handwriting legible. My wife admits that I have pretty handwriting…for a guy. The other day though, I was thinking, so what?!

We live in a digital world that has dramatically devalued the need to physically write with one’s hand. Letters are sent through email, forms are filled out on Adobe Acrobat, and signatures are expressed through facial recognition software. Who the hell needs a pen anymore?

I find it a little ironic. A lot of people make a big deal about the decline of cursive. They hate that it is being phased out of America’s schools. But hello, don’t focus too hard on the lack of enthusiasm for cursive because handwriting in general is on its way out.

Do I think this is a bad thing? In my brief opinion, yes. I think when we physically write something out, it causes us to think more about what we are expressing. Each word is labor intensive and we are making our point by using something that is as unique as fingerprints – our handwriting style.

So much personality is jammed into our handwriting that to sacrifice it for typed text is a huge loss. Sure, in some cases it might lessen confusion and eliminate errors due to ambiguity, but for the most part I find it to be a shame.

How often do you physically write with your hand per day? If the answer is “very little,” I suggest finding excuses to do so. Your penmanship, whether good or bad, is part of who you are. Don’t Blink.