Remember childhood lessons on cursive writing? Remember learning to create the big loopy tail for the lowercase “y” and where, exactly, to dot the “i” and “j”? Are you a writer who drafts or revises by hand? Or do you go straight to the keyboard?
Process is fascinating! What goes on in the brain and body when we write by hand versus on the keyboard? Do we access ideas/memories/sensations differently? An article in the New York Times in June 2014 took a look at research into the writing of kids and adults. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/03/science/whats-lost-as-handwriting-fades.html?_r=0 One study found that when kids “composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas.”
One researcher reflected on the connection between mind and the movement involved in shaping letters: “With handwriting, the very act of putting it down forces you to focus on what’s important.”
There’s a certain liveliness to handwriting, too, a spirit that inhabits the letter shapes. It bristles or floats or wavers or spikes–often a reflection of the writer’s personality or mood. One of my husband’s great joys is calligraphy. He often creates whole pages of specific letters or words, delighting in the swivel of the “Z,” the plumpness of the “Q,” the cradle of white space in the “V.”
In the past few years, I’ve been saving a few Christmas cards with handwritten notes from older family members and friends. In this age of the constant, static selfie, these notes seem not fixed but infused with breath, flowing across the page. A form of embodiment, perhaps.
How about you? Before you toss the holiday cards, might you look closely at and appreciate the idiosyncratic handwritten notes and signatures? What do you notice? Might you try handwriting a few paragraphs of your new creative project? And as you do so, you might slow down and take pleasure in shaping the letters, letting them build into sounds in your inner ear and sentences that sway or sweep across the page.