Writing from the heart – and by hand

Do you groan when you have to address an envelope by hand, or write something in a greeting card? Or do you welcome the chance to express your true self through personally-penned words rather than use the impersonal blandness of a keyboard?

Writing from the heart – and by hand

How many of us remember how to write by hand – neatly?

Recently I was chatting to my good friend Sarah Sibley who runs a business offering the most gorgeous personalised stationery, and we got on to the subject of handwriting and how today it has become almost a novelty in a world of text generated by keyboards that make everyone’s written communication look identical.

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 that I, like all children born in the Ming Dynasty, experienced when writing before the digital age.

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.

Writing from the heart – and by hand

Keyboards: encouraging textual diarrhoea?

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 garble 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 just your head which is simultaneously writing tomorrow’s grocery list.

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 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.

Writing from the heart – and by hand

Handwriting in your second language: actually easier

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.

And given that I haven’t got a French keyboard conversion, believe me it’s a lot easier and almost faster to write in French by hand, so you don’t have to stop every other word to find the correct accents in your (English language) “special symbols” screen…

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 by hand – or at least, use its requirement for you to think, and write, mindfully. 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.

Do you like writing by hand? Do you feel it’s more sincere than typed text?

Please share your thoughts!