Sunday, June 10, 2007

Writing Longhand

It sounds rather quaint doesn't it? Writing longhand. Just reading those words feels like I've time travelled back to the days when candles were the main source of light, computers had not taken over the world and people used sheep intestines for condoms, if they really used them at all. It gets even more ironic when I see it typed out on the screen in front of me.

It's quaint because I do about 90% of my 'writing' on the keyboard. I do this also because it's so much faster and clearer for me to type as compared to writing. At full tilt, on a good day when the sign is shining and the birds are chirping some sweet morning tune, I can probably blast about up to about maybe 80 over words per second with a low typing error rate. But when I take notes or write something longhand my hand get tired much quicker. More often than not because my writing is so atrocious and because of the lack of practise, it has become so lazy, I cannot even understand my own writing. It's strange how I can be pounding away at the keyboard for hours but then feel a strain in my hand after maybe just half or three quarters of an hour of writing longhand - shorter if I'm using a ballpoint. The reason I think is because I press too hard when I write and so face greater resistance with each stroke of the pen.

So used was I to writing almost everything on keyboard that after a while I started to feel strange writing things on a piece of paper. And whilst I loved perusing and feeling paper, and buying books of lovely made paper, I hardly wrote anything in them. Lately though, I have returned to my earlier days of carrying a paper notebook around and a pen. This has spurred me on to jot things down as and when it catches me. Now I am beginning to enjoy the feel and hold of the pen in my fingers and allowing my hand to loop, draw and sketch out my thoughts or jottings. After a few months of toting the notebook, I have summoned enough courage to move on to those huge ruled pads for notes and started writing on that. It's those with a hard back and cover. I used to feel a little like drifting on a raft on a huge sea of white with their large acreage of space and stern blue or black thin lines that laid down order on the page. And having gambolled around all around the writing pad, starting as usual at the beginning, writing some stray thoughts on the back pages and perhaps starting something promising off in the middle and keeping all sorts of printouts and reading materials on it. Now the writing pad looks used, worn and personal.

And that's the thing about writing longhand. There is an intimacy in reading a handwritten message (especially a letter or some secret missive) that cannot be reached with typed words. The latter is too stern, too abiding to form to let our personalities or emotions seep into its form, its structure, its shape. With handwritten work, we are not just in the piece itself but in its very expression. Not so with the typed word. Everybody can hit the same key and make the exact similar mark. And the act of writing itself has a very organic feel to it - it feels as if you are operating within nature rather than in some formulated, coldly efficient way.

It is interesting too what kind of stuff we are inspired to write when we change our media or methodology. I have recently been becoming inspired by the tension between the two. I have discovered that I am more comfortable writing fiction or correspondences on pieces of paper then typing them up on the screen where I find more comfort writing essays or lengthier articles that require many references. I have found for myself anyway that sometimes the hand that types is different from the hand that writes.

1 comment:

Noreen said...

Not sure whether you have read The Feeling of Power by Isaac Asimov.Its one of my faves.It gave me the creepy feeling about people forgetting how to do simple arithmetic and when they rediscovered it, they use it as weapons of mass destruction. hehehe. anyways, i had the same creepy feeling after reading your post, got me thinking, nowdays I use the pen mostly to sign, not to write, what if one day all of us forget how to write? what if i got kidnapped and I dont know how to write n draw those signs for help?

anyways, i prefer to use ball pen than those with ink. reason, i'm a leftie, most times my left hand will have a long and thick stretch of black ink marks after writing. i hope one day some great inventor will invent leftie-friendly ink pens and tables. I cant write anything on those folded chairs/desks at bar council audi or tutorial rooms when i was a student. another reason for my poor results in law-school. the desks/chairs very uncomfy for lefties.