When was the last time you thought about writing? I mean actual writing. Usually when I talk about writing, I’m talking about plopping down in front of my laptop, typing away as fast as my mind and my poor fingers can manage. Rarely do you actually write on paper, with a pen or pencil in our hands, writing our thoughts on a tangible piece of paper.
There’s an art to writing, one that I haven’t given much thought in years. Really, since the advent of the word processor, handwriting has been becoming obsolete. It’s been years since I’ve written a letter, placed it in an envelope, and mailed it to its destination. I remember writing letters to female acquaintances, mailing it, and waiting for weeks to receive a response. Everything now is instantaneous, and perhaps it is our loss.
What prompted this line of thought was a link that someone posted on Facebook, to My Modern Met, GIFs Reveal the Visually Satisfying Process of a Hand-Lettering Expert. I then found a link to a Buzzfeed list, 21 Pieces Of Handwriting So Perfect They’re Borderline Erotic. When I consider my own skill at writing, well I bow my head in shame. I confess that I have no skill whatsoever.
I then started thinking about reports I heard about schools no longer teaching cursive. It’s obsolete in the modern world, they argue, proclaiming that today is the age of electronic communication, of computers, emails and texting, instant messaging and various other options created by the advent of smartphones. Handwriting and penmanship are anachronisms, relics of a bygone age, long forgotten and never to return, or so they would like us to believe.
But us old folks , – and I’ll be damned if I can count myself as part of that group! – can still remember the stupor-inducing repetitive nature of learning how to write. First in regular print, then in cursive. Back then, which I can’t believe is more than thirty years ago, handwriting was considered an important skill to possess. So much of my early education was spent learning who to write, and then how to spell. Lessons were spent teaching vocabulary words, expanding our minds in order to succeed in the grown-up world.
Looking at the poor spelling and grammar I see daily online, the modern communication age hasn’t made us better at expressing our thoughts. In many ways, it has made us lazier and stupider, unable to put into words what we think and feel in a coherent, expressive manner. So much of modern communication has given way to the age of the meme, where someone places pseudo-intellectual mumbo-jumbo superimposed over some photo meant to elicit a certain emotional response.
Is it fair to blame the loss of penmanship and handwriting to our own mental slide? Maybe not, but then again, maybe it is. There’s a magic in expressing longhand what we are trying to convey. Think about the fluidity of a pen dancing over paper, leaving a trail that emanates from some spark in the mind, flows down the arm and finally to the fingers which grasp so delicate an instrument, one that has been responsible for disseminating ideas to a receptive audience. Truly, Edward Bulwer-Lytton penned no greater phrase when he wrote the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” when he wrote the play “Richelieu”, in 1839.
Perhaps I’m waxing lyrical over an archaic art doomed to be lost to the ages, by I pray not. I hope some form of handwriting will exist for future generations, not only for the sense of art, but for the message actual handwriting conveys. Reddit has a subreddit devoted solely to it in Penmanship Porn.
Finally, Gatorade produced a commercial not for its product line, but to thank Peyton Manning. On focus is not his contribution to football, but his own practice of writing handwritten letters to various people, friends, colleagues, and fans alike. If you still don’t believe in the magic of the handwritten note after seeing this, then maybe I’m wasting my time typing this out, but again, I pray not.