When I was in elementary school, I learned how to write using the D’Nealian method. There were cool workbooks with the line-dash-line paper and lots of things to trace. Cursive was fun until I realized my teachers were going to require all assignments be written in cursive for the next 6 years.
Then high school came. Freedom to print. OR WRITE IN ALL CAPS. oR mIx it Up, EveN iF iT Wuz on mY teal NoTeBooK. Maybe I could even use the typewriter for a couple papers (gasp!). Until I walked into Russian class. We would learn the Cyrillic alphabet and write in Cyrillic cursive. Curses!
In college, when I finally graduated from my hand-me-down Smith Corona word processing typewriter (thanks Big Sis), it was computer time. I barely picked up a pen again for years and I was relieved. Despite the lifetime-so-far of practice, my handwriting was fair, but often sloppy. Typing was faster and it was consistent.
Fast forward to 2013 when I took a position in the retail industry. We started a chalkboard signage program where I had to develop the standards. This was a blast, but the person in charge’s handwriting and general pen-holding skills (mine) had morphed into a mush of letters borrowed from 2 different alphabets. In a word: mess.
So I bought a sketch book and a pencil sharpener and practiced writing “Strawberries” “New Flavor!” “$7.99 / lb”. I saw my handwriting transform from mess to passable. I enjoyed sketching out chalk boards beforehand and refining as they were drawn. I found myself busting out the sketchbook for non-work drawings, quick diagrams or doodles. My regular meeting notes and quick stickies to my co-workers were legible to more than just me. My handwriting steadily improved and it triggered a pocket of my brain that a keyboard could not. Decent handwriting was an analog skill.
A 2014 article in the New York Times suggests handwriting is key to educational development and mental stimulation. For adults, handwriting may help information processing and focus.
A few months after starting The Brandstalk, I looked down at my day’s notes. Donald N. Thurber- the creator of D’Nealian- was probably poking his eyes out with No. 2 pencils. I’d lost that attention to my handwriting that was so crucial to communicating the right product and price to the customer, the response rate my co-worker had asked for or completing an application for a special event permit.
More importantly, I’d forgotten how great it felt to activate that circuit that psychologist Dehaene mentions. So I am back at it with the sketchbook, the adult coloring book and writing my work notes as if my team of creative cronies needs them for the next project.
Do you have a handwriting story? Please share it in the comments or let me know on Twitter.