Writing by Hand

The power of pen, ink, and paper

The power of pen, ink, and paper

During the last week at my part-time job, I’ve been working on a data entry project that involves reading filled-out slips and entering the information into an Excel spreadsheet. Sounds boring, right? It could be, I suppose, but I find the crazy variety of handwriting quite interesting. What I don’t find interesting is how often that handwriting is almost completely illegible. When I cannot read what is written, it makes the data entry job more difficult.

The slips I’m reading ask for name, address, phone number, e-mail address and the answer to a simple question. If someone actually picked up a blank slip and filled it out, I’d assume that the individual would want the information to be read and understood. I fail to understand why the people who filled out these slips did so with such sloppy penmanship. Granted, there are those that are clear and easy to read, and I’d estimate they are about 50% of the total. My not being able to read the information ends up hurting the person who filled out the slip. And I figure that if I can’t read it, no one can.


Writing by hand. Have we gotten lazy now that we have personal computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones? I’ve heard a rumor that handwriting is no longer taught in the same way in which I learned it as a child, or that good penmanship receives the emphasis that it used to receive. We still need to be able to write by hand, to be able to sign our names to important documents like Wills, contracts, marriage licenses, for example. The handwritten thank you note carries with it far more power and personality than the typed note. The handwritten love letter conveys all the emotions of loving in the unique lines and curves of the letters formed by the person writing it. Not to mention the intimacy of something that’s handwritten.

Cursive letters

Cursive letters

As a writer, I spend a lot of time working on a keyboard, but I also write by hand more than perhaps you can imagine. I find writing by hand, with pen and ink on paper, forces my mind to slow down, to think about what I want to commit to paper. I love the physical act of writing, also. To hold a pen just so, to touch its point to paper, to watch the flow of ink on paper as my hand moves to form the letters. This writing is serious. This writing must be read, mulled over by a serious mind. This is slow writing, originating from deep within the body; mind, body, and soul together in the act. Both intellectual and spiritual, writing by hand provides the deepest of satisfying writing experiences.

I write my journal by hand, not on the computer. I usually do revisions of my fiction by hand and then type any edits into the electronic file. When I was writing screenplays, I always wrote the first draft by hand. I love receiving notes, letters, just about anything written by hand…except those slips that I’ve been reading to enter into the Excel spreadsheet. Take your time writing something by hand, especially if it’s requested information that’s important. Be proud to write by hand. It is a skill that is centuries old and originally marked progress in human development. I tend to think that the tyranny of the keyboard will not be progress but marks the end of thoughtful communication. We can see this happening already, especially on the internet where people type words with little regard to how they’ll be received.

One last thing: writing by hand reveals intelligence and thought. Unlike the ease of typing where people vomit ill-conceived thoughts and words onto a screen. Such writing betrays immaturity, lack of compassion and empathy, a raw lack of intelligence that breeds rigid thinking and kills creativity. I’m seeing a lot of this kind of writing out there in the world right now. I want to remove computers in all their forms and hand out pens and paper — certainly much cheaper writing tools. Engage your mind before writing! Pen and paper forces me to think. Human beings need pen and paper in order to not forget to think, critically analyze, and consider consequences.


2 responses to “Writing by Hand

  1. Surprisingly, writing longhand script is being removed from many school curricula–for whatever reason–which only compounds the problem. I teach a writing workshop every summer, for undergrads who want to work for the government, and one of the things I make them do is write an essay in longhand with a pen or pencil. You’d be surprised at how many college seniors are unable to do this.

    • I’d heard about how cursive was no longer being taught in schools which is a shame. What will signatures be like in future? I’m not at all surprised that college seniors have a problem writing anything out longhand. A bit of a rude awakening, I suppose, although I could imagine them giving you a hard time about the assignment.

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