Friday, September 2, 2011


As a child my left hand turned my wonderful thoughts into illegible smudges. I would look down at the page and feel a deep sense of dissatisfaction with what I had created.

My heart would sink whenever my teacher praised a classmate for the quality of their penmanship. That will never be me, I thought.

I couldn’t get homework in on time; I spent too much time on my printing and not enough on the content. I wanted my work to be perfect, but my ability didn’t match my desire.

In the end I gave up. I would lie on my bed reading novels when I should have been doing my homework. My school grades suffered as a result.

The advent of word-processing software should have been a godsend for me. Here was a tool that, in one fell swoop, fixed my spelling and presented my words in perfect print. But it was too late. My bad habits were too deeply entrenched. Despite my love of computers my homework continued to pile up and my grades continued to go down.

It was many years later; I was sitting at my desk, my pen poised over a sheet of snow-white paper, and I thought, I’m going to teach myself to write without smudges. I moved the pen slowly across the page. It was hard at first, frustrating even. But as my handwriting improved I began to understand, nay, to feel, the joy of forming words on paper.

There was a connection between my words and my thoughts, I realised. It was a connection I hadn’t been told about as I learnt to write. I understood the art of handwriting, not just the practicality of it.

Perhaps things were just a bit rushed in school. Perhaps if I’d taken a bit more time I would have understood the art of hand-writing much earlier in my life.

So now, if a child tells me they have bad handwriting, I tell them about the art of writing. Invariably they will look at me blankly and tell me about the word-processor. But I know: if they love words, one day they will learn to love the pen too.

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