On Handwriting And Switching To Cursive

I'm a software developer; I make my living on a computer. In this age there just isn't much reason for me to bother improving my handwriting.

I've thought that for years. While like most people my age, I learned to write in cursive in school (and to write in general) I'd essentially stopped using such an all-important skill in my daily life, save for the odd sticky-note here and reminder scribble there.

How It Began

Examples of my typical print writing

I never wrote by hand. Why would I? You can't ⌘+f handwritten text, you can't change-control it, you can't even back it up easily. Why would you bother writing anything significant by hand at all?

An old programming teacher of mine once quipped:

People say that stuff on a computer isn't real, it's just digital. You can't touch it or save it. If the computer dies, it's gone. But I say they've got it backwards. Files on a computer are so much more real. I can prevent them from getting old, I can back them up for free, and I can send them to you without losing my original. On a computer, it's more real than it is on paper.

While I'm not sure I ever truly agreed with his point there, I did take that advice to heart for most of the past 12 years. In college, most of my work was digital already, and once school ended, I stopped writing by hand for all but a few rare tasks. I've always been a fan of writing in principle and many years ago I got a few fountain pens as a gift. Mostly they sat in a drawer, but occasionally I'd take them out and pine over how cool they were, then go about my day. I do keep a journal by hand, but writing in it has been an oft-forgot afterthought for most of my adult life.

Until last year.

How it Went

Examples of my slightly enhanced print writing

I've been working on a bit of a project now for over two years and part of that project has been writing a ton of notes for myself. I used to keep them in Notes.app on my Mac (since it syncs with all my devices), but after a while I got sort of disillusioned on doing that. As mentioned above, I live on my computer and it was starting to really get to me just how much time I spend at my desk, staring at a screen. So I took out a fresh notebook I'd been given years ago, and I started to take notes there instead.

I was hooked.

Within a few short weeks I had dozens of pages of notes, sketches, and musings in this little book (that was poorly made and now falling apart), so I dusted off the old fountain pens, bought some better notebooks on Amazon, and kept at it. I'd been taken in by writing. Writing by hand had so many downsides, but there were incredible upsides too. I no longer got distracted by notifications while writing. I loved flipping through my notes to review them. I rarely lost track of notes because I knew where they were in relation to other notes because human brains know where stuff is in space (mind-blowing, I know). I even got to talking to some friends about this new hobby of mine.

And that's when I went into overdrive. You see, a friend of mine gifted me a dip pen as a birthday present and I was supercharged.

One thing I've learned, that I find difficult to describe, is just how expressive it feels to write with pen on paper, even when you have nothing to write about. I was genuinely taken in by the sound of scritches of metal on paper. Over that first half of the year I wrote, by hand, over one hundred pages of text! That's likely more than I'd written in the past decade (and likely even further back) combined!

One thing still bothered me though: my terrible handwriting.

It's always been bad. It was bad when I was 5, 12, 20, and it's still bad. I knew it, everyone knew it. I never bothered to improve it either because:

  1. I knew how to read it (most of the time).
  2. Writing is something I rarely did, so why get better?
  3. I'm lazy.

However, writing poorly didn't just mean my scribbles were sometimes difficult for me to read (and impossible for others to do so), it also meant something more important: my hand hurt when I wrote. My grip was too tight and my hand was unpracticed and sloppy. That meant I couldn't write for very long, even when I wanted to. What's more I've always romanticized writing (see the fountain pens above). I wanted to write better, but I didn't want it enough and I never really needed to. Now though, I was writing constantly and my bad penmanship was getting in my way.

It was time. I needed to revisit cursive.

How It's Going

Examples of my cursive writing

I hadn't written in cursive since second grade. I stopped doing it the moment it was no longer required and I never looked back — until last October.

I can confidently say that I've written more cursive in the past four months than I have in my whole life before, combined. Easily. Over two hundred pages.

And it's great.

I'm by no means good at it, but I'm improving. I started with just trying to remember the letters. I have to imagine this is how learning to type on a DVORAK keyboard feels: your brain just breaks for a while. I even used those cursive worksheets they give to kids (with custom text of course).

After that I graduated to journaling in cursive and later writing in general in cursive. After four months, I can say that almost everything I write these days is in cursive by default. In fact I really only print when I need to scribble down a quick sticky-note or reminder (exactly as I did before all this).

My handwriting is by no means good, but I think my cursive is better than my print (especially if you take into account how long I've been practicing the latter vs. the former).

I've fallen in love with writing by hand. It's something I've always wanted to do well, but it took until now for me to set aside the time and effort to do it. I only regret waiting this long.

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