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Handwriting: Keeping the flag flying for the humble notebook


Handwriting, notebooks, pens, all are objects of fascination to me. I love to see beautiful script and wish that my skills had improved rather than deteriorated in the face of technological convenience. Patrick Rhone, who writes The Cramped, a blog dedicated to all things connected with writing, does wonders in promoting a return to more traditional methods of recording our thoughts. 

This week Patrick received a tribute from one of his readers, Brian Hamilton.  It warms the cockles of my heart to see Brian making such a determined effort to grab back his writing skills from the clatter of his keyboard.

One upon a time I had a pretty good fist, having adopted an italic style of handwriting at an early age and having studied, off and on, the art of calligraphy. I was always buying pens, exotic italic nibs, bottles of rare ink and, of course, endless quantities of notebooks. These days, along with almost ever writer I know, I love the Moleskine range of notebooks and always keep one in my bag for odd jottings. I have many nice pens, including the silver Montblanc I bought in Berlin 25 years ago on the day the Wall fell. But most of them, pens and notebooks, suffer from a lack of use.

Sadly the convenience and precision of the typed word has served to degrade my handwriting simply because of lack of commitment. I now write infrequently and find myself entering even short notes into one or other of the many plain-text applications on my iPad or iPhone. Over the past decade my handwriting has become more jerky and less appealing; I grip the pen with a fierceness that hurts and which I seem incapable of remedying. Sometimes I can write fluently, appreciating the smooth strokes of the nib on the paper; on other occasions writing is painful and discouraging. I am very sad about this.

I know that the answer is practice, to force myself to commit more to paper in the old fashioned way. But the convenience of digital, as opposed to digit, input is overwhelming.

It is encouraging, however, to see enthusiasts such as Patrick Rhone and Brian Hamilton keeping the flag flying for the handwritten word.