Have we forgotten how to write from the heart – and hand?

Much as I love the online environment because it offers so many varied opportunities to communicate via the written word, I can’t help wondering if its sheer “high-tech-ness” isn’t slowly strangling the poetry and romance out of writing as those of us who, like all children of the Ming Dynasty, experienced when writing before the digital age.

Have we forgotten how to write from the heart - and hand?

I quite like the discipline. Every word and sentence is written by me, from the heart.

The sheer anarchy and textual diarrhoea enabled by keyboards (and by that I mean typewriters, too, although they were rather a half-way house between writing by hand and what we do now) have obviated our need to think first and write later.

With this wonderful technology that allows us to ramble on at 120 words or more per minute we simply whack down whatever comes into our heads and then repent, or at least edit, at leisure.

That’s how it has affected me. I can yak on for thousands of words on a keyboard but when writing by hand, I have to slow down and really think about what I’m writing.

Pen on paper does not have that handy gizmo called a “delete key” and because you don’t want endless scratchings-out in a handwritten script, guess what … you’ve got to edit in your mind before you commit words to the slice of dead tree. This means, IMHO, what you write comes from your heart – not your head.

How long is it since you wrote a letter – a real, ink-on-paper letter – to a friend or relative?

Was it just a few lines scribbled in a card or on a conveniently small sheet of notepaper? If I’m honest, it’s not often I write more than a line or two and sign my name in birthday or Holiday cards, and that’s if I send the paper type anyway … it’s far more likely to be an eCard which requires no more than a few impersonal keystrokes.

One exercise that does bring me up very sharply into shape is when I write to my elderly Godmother, a Belgian lady who does not know a computer from a hole in the ground and grinds her teeth menacingly at text presented in typed form. She also tut-tuts at written scripts with things crossed out. She was a teacher before retirement and still wallops errant pupils on the knuckles for errors, albeit just metaphorically these days.

Admittedly when I write to her, it’s in French which makes me think even harder than when I write in English, but the syndrome is the same. Letters to “Marraine Monique” are thought through, sentence by sentence, word by word. That is an entire gear change for me. But it isn’t unpleasant. In fact, I quite like the discipline. Every word and sentence is written by me, from the heart.

Writing from the heart: does it really need to be by hand?

Not necessarily. If you can forget all the bad habits you’ve learned from the fluency of online/digital writing – i.e. write whatever comes into your head and retro-rationalize it – and just think in a single dimension about what you’re saying, then you’ll be able to write from the heart even if you’re dangling upside-down from a bungee rope a hundred metres above a canyon tapping words into your iPhone.

So don’t dismiss writing from the heart, whether by hand or by using this approach in your digital communications. It’s an art that has spanned many centuries and although derided, possibly, by the newest high-tech wallahs, it still has the ability to help us connect with others one-to-one, exclusively, personally.

How do you feel about writing by hand, from the heart?

Please share.




  1. Your post brings to mind the recent debate over cursive writing in schools. Apparently, they want to remove it from the curricula in Canada and the US. To me, it’s utterly stupid.

    I rarely write letters, but I do crosswords. This has helped keep my handwriting ok. Most kids now can’t write at all.

    By the way, you and I should chat in French someday. 😉

    • That’s ridiculous, Cendrine. It’s bad enough that they don’t teach kids to read maps any more but to stop teaching them how to write by hand is ludicrous. I know it’s OK to be dependent on technology, but here’s a stupid question: what happens in a power outage long enough for everyone’s batteries to run out?
      And bien sur, let’s talk in French. In fact I am thinking a little about starting a French section on HTWB here about writing in French for business and leisure, and ditto in German. Possibly extending to Spanish and Mandarin although the latter is perhaps more of a problem in font terms. What do you think?
      And would you be interested in heading up the French section?
      I have another friend in UK who is German and a German teacher, so I might ask her re: that side of it.