Saturday, January 23, 2016

Putting Ink On Paper

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day!
A day to be celebrated and savoured for many reasons. I have shared my thoughts with my handwriting class students many times over the years. I believe that handwriting flows rhythmically with the thoughts and feelings of the writer. If you are tense and jittery, your handwriting will reflect those feelings. If you are relaxed and at peace, the connection between thoughts in the mind and the journey to the hand seem to flow unimpeded. No emotion can hide from the tip of the pen. Handwriting and calligraphy are my daily reset buttons if I should use such a digital term for an analog skill. Even the word analog looks out of place when I am writing about handwriting. The digital age has affected our minds. There is no way around that and some will argue that our minds are better for it and some will say that are minds are worse for wear. I recommend the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr if you want to dive into his thoughts on the matter. My copy is tattered, heavily underlined and laden with post-it notes where I jotted some responses to his thoughts. His book caused me to stop to think about the effects of the digital age. My response to digital overload is that daily reset button of handwriting and calligraphy. Both skills allow my mind to rest, to pause, to breathe. Thinking back to my cursive writing lessons in elementary school, I don't think I would have agreed that handwriting was rest for my mind. We had daily drills, practiced letter forms on guidesheets, often did our drills to a metronome to keep us writing rhythmically. Our handwriting needed to match the guidesheets as closely as possible. We needed uniform slant of letters, consistent open loops and flowing exit and entry strokes. Every elementary school teacher I can remember had impeccable Palmer Penmanship skills. I wanted my cursive writing to look like theirs but it really didn't conform. We had to apply in writing for our Pen License before we could graduate from pencil to pen. The world of pen offered bright colors of ink, different sizes of pen tip and even a fountain pen option if we could prove we wouldn't have ink blots all over our work. The goal of achieving that pen license was monumental at the time and I remember feeling stressed, and worried that I would ever get that license! I eventually got the license and remember my favourtite pen was the fine Bic with the schoolbus yellow barrel and the blue cap. My penmanship skills in no way called me into my future career choice. My thoughts about handwriting are often different than those of my colleagues. I see beautiful cursive writing as well as beautiful italic writing. I believe that handwriting is a very unique extension of our own personality.
Each person's handwriting is as unique as their voice or their fingerprint. No two people will write identically even if they started with the same system of penmanship. My goal in teaching handwriting was always to increase legibility while helping each student find a practical rhythm and pace to their writing. If they can't read their own notes or keep up with their own thoughts on paper with ink, they are going to abandon the pursuit of the skill. I do find that the digital age can bombard my mind. The harsh bright screen of the computer, the beeps I hear it make while I am trying to concentrate on getting my thoughts on paper, watching little messages fly across the screen, and in the back of my mind, often wondering what else is on. So I temporarily switch from my writing document, see what is happening on facebook and instagram, linger there often longer than needed ,check my email, respond to those and then try to remember what I was working on before the diversion. I wonder..... is this healthy? When I pause and shut down that computer screen and can sit at my desk with only ink and paper, my mind breathes. It rests in the comfort that the paper will not distract me. The paper does not have a delete button. It does not autocorrect my words and thoughts. Errors are captured and recorded on paper but with the safety of knowing that the recycle bin can carry those mistakes into oblivion. I can rest and take comfort in the thought that I can create something on the paper that can bring joy to someone else.
I can brighten someone's day with a note of encouragement or a brightly flourished envelope. I can let the feelings I have for the recipient come to the surface and flow out of the tip of the pen. It is a unique experience. It is meditative, it is peaceful, it restores my focus and refreshes my mind. It is my daily push back against the bombardment of the computer screen.Neither my handwriting or my calligraphy is perfect. It is not a font. It reflects the human who picked up a writing instrument and united with the process of putting ink on paper.
It's a celebration of a skill that can be used to bless someone else. It is a practical way to say thank you that means far more to the recipient than an email. When a handwritten letter arrives for me, I savour the experience. I pause and breathe while reading the note. The note does not intrude. It did not beep at me as a text message. It waited quietly on the desk until I was ready to open it and read the thoughts of my friend. I feel connected to my friend as I read their words.It's an entirely different connection than what comes to me on my iphone as a text message. It feels different than a digital message. It did not get lost in a huge group of emails that came to my inbox. It found a quite place and soulful time to visit with me. The process of sending handwritten notes continues to be part of my life. In many ways, I think in ink. Happy National Handwriting Day!


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and said, Heather! You have created your own inner world of tranquility, much needed in this digital age. Love, Dad!

Heather Victoria Held said...

Thanks Dad!

Patti McCarthy Greenstein said...

Spot on Heather. I truly appreciate the passion and commitment from the most talented penmen. Though my skills are not at the same level as yours and many other penmen that I have been fortunate to cross paths with, lettering, pen work and the handwritten note are equally important to me. Thank you for sharing so eloquently!

Heather Victoria Held said...

thanks for the kind words Patti!!!! Big hug,