Handwriting

image“You’ve got great handwriting,” people say. “I have really bad handwriting, so I can’t share my notes, but your handwriting looks wonderful.”

My hand-writing would look at home in kindergarten. This is the way I fill out government forms or write anything that must be read reasonably well or else Stuff Could Happen. I ditch the script that my grade school teachers taught me (slanted guidelines under a pad of paper, a callus on the wrong finger) and print print print.

I can’t speed-read my cursive. On bad days, I can’t even slowly read it. So I’ve stopped. I use cursive to sign my name (and it’s not even a fancy signature) and to dash off quick notes, but that’s it. I use print for anything I want to remember. It helps that the computer can read it too.

Maybe people feel bad about their handwriting because people get sloppy when they’re trying to write quickly, or when they’re tired. I know I find it harder to write clearly if I’m in a rush. That’s one of the reasons why I slow down or break it up with drawings. Doodles let me stretch after writing lots of letters.

I also tend to write big letters, because oddly enough it feels less tiring than writing small letters. I write slowly, much more slowly than I can type. It only looks like I’m quick because I manage to capture the key points of a presentation while the speaker’s talking. But it’s not about writing everything down, and besides, that wouldn’t fit anyway on the page anyway. I learned from reading tons of business books that most ideas come surrounded by lots of fluff.

Here’s another idea: maybe people make handwriting too much a part of their identity. Maybe print feels less sophisticated than script, which is why people don’t use it as much. I don’t need my handwriting to be a clue to my personality. I don’t need it to say that I’m smart or stylish, or that I survived the supervision of my grade school teachers.

Maybe people stick with one style instead of experimenting, because they don’t want to look wishy-washy. My handwriting isn’t my handwriting. It’s just a way I write. It changes over time.

It’s funny how much your handwriting isn’t even about you but about the tools you use. Some of my friends have really neat handwriting. They print in these incredibly even, confident, lined-up letters. I fake evenness and confidence with a computer. Or with a technical pen or gel pen, if I have to write on paper. Everything looks better in smooth black ink. Everything looks fancier with a fountain pen. I wondered about how they managed to write so neatly. I asked them about it, and they told me they noticed the same thing with pens. The pen you use affects how you write.

What happens if you forget about being embarrassed about your handwriting, and just write? What happens if you play with the way you write?

  • Gregory Lam

    Have you considered making your handwriting into a font? It’s pretty nifty.

    • http://sachachua.com sachac

      I’ve tried http://www.myscriptfont.com/, but now I want to tweak the kerning and add some alternates… <laugh>

  • http://irreal.org/blog jcs

    I feel your pain. I’m left handed and always had the worst handwriting in class. As soon as the school would let me (junior or senior high school, I think) I gave up on cursive and started printing everything. Like you, I can type much faster than I can write and generally reserve pen use for signing things.

    I wrote two or three posts about the end of cursive (many schools in the US are no longer teaching it) and in one Kate Gladstone left a thoughtful comment in which she recommended semi-cursive writing where only some of the letters are joined. You might find her remarks interesting.

    • http://sachachua.com sachac

      Yeah, you’ll probably notice that I tend to connect “ut” and some other letter pairs in my sketches. =) I should probably get into the habit of fully separating my letters, though – they look a little more readable that way.

  • Johan

    Hello Sacha,

    Here is a tip for you and other people who want to improve their handwriting:

    http://www.paperpenalia.com/handwriting.html

    Perhaps it can be helpful to you.

    Kind regards,

    Johan

    • http://sachachua.com Sacha Chua

      That’s great! I came across the write-from-your-elbow sort of advice in terms of drawing, and it’s good to remember to apply it in terms of writing too.

    • http://sachachua.com sachac

      Thanks for sharing that! I came across the idea of using your elbow and shoulder in the context of drawing, and I should remember to use it when writing as well. I tend to grip my pen too hard otherwise. Oddly, it only happens on paper – I have a more relaxed grip when I draw on my computer.