Jessie: In New Hampshire, surprised to see patches of dormant grass in the yard.
You know those things about yourself that you wish were different? Some of them are easy enough to address, like hair color. Others, like a nail biting habit or or adding six inches in height are harder to change.
I don’t bite my nails and although I wouldn’t mind a few extra inches in height, I have a nice collection of heels, so being short isn’t much of a problem either. Which leaves my handwriting.
In the third grade, like so many American children, I began to learn cursive. I had a teacher with achingly beautiful handwriting and I thought learning to write like her would be as easy as learning to read or to add and subtract. But as I began forming the letters on pulpy sheets of newsprint complete with dashed lines it soon became obvious that this was going to be a completely different experience.
Only a few weeks into the school year my family moved. My new school was in a different place with cursive lessons than the old one. Also, my teacher formed the letters a bit differently. I came to realise that handwritng was a far more subjective sort of thing than sounding out new words or memorizing multiplication tables. My own attempts to master the art were turing out poorly and as soon as students were encouraged to type work rather than to write by hand I did so.
Which brings me to the present. Despite the fact that I actually write on my computer, I always start my novels in a notebook. My ideas just seem to flow better at the early stages of a project that way. Over the years, I’ve come up with a sort of limping print that stutters and stumbles along the page, my thoughts running far ahead of my hand, leaving a trail of disaster in their wake. When I go back to consult my notes later I often have enormous difficulty reading them.
So, this year I’ve decided to change all that. I headed for YouTube and watched video after video of people sharing tips and techniques. I downloaded some practice sheets with lines that are set up with a right-leaning slant guides in addition to all the horizontal dashed lines. I bought a few decent pens with different sorts of inks and line widths. I assembled a variety of papers. Most importantly, I just started practicing. Every single day.
It’s only been a month but I’m starting to see results. I’m almost happy with my lowercase g and m. My b forms aren’t half bad and I am making peace with the letter f. I confess, I still wish c was not part of our alphabet. I haven’t even given thought to the uppercase. But, I find I am actually having fun with the process. It feels creative. It feels redemptive. It feels a bit like being a bright-eyed eight-year-old once again. It may be harder than changing my hair color but I think, in the end, it will be worth it.
Readers, do you like your handwriting? If so, do you have any tips for me? Is there something about yourself you’ve worked to change? Did you enjoy the process?