Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Lost Art of Handwriting


As I sat down to write thank you notes to my recent committee chairs, I realized that I’m woefully out of practice when it comes to hand-written notes. My once-beautiful handwriting has turned ugly and I make mistakes that can’t be corrected by backspacing and typing again.

There was a time in my life when I wrote lots of letters, many of them long missives, to my nearests and dearests of the moment who were somewhere else. I sought out beautiful stationery, sometimes perfumed, and even used various colors of ink in my fountain pen. I explored existentialism with Steve, an elusive search for love with Duke, and home-grown poetry with Joe. As I licked the stamp and posted each letter, there was always the question of when the response to my letter would arrive. Such a different mentality than the way we currently correspond in E-mail, where communication can be almost instantaneous.

After the High Holy Days concluded, I decided that appreciation should be conveyed in a form more permanent and tangible than e-mail.

I visited Capitol Hill’s newest card shop Groovy DC (on 8th St SE) to find the perfect note cards. What I love about this store is the fact that you are not overwhelmed with choices. Instead there were but three boxed possibilities, each of which was quite unique. I happily purchased two of the three.

The three or four sentences in each of my thank you messages had to be crafted in my head before putting pen to paper. I found myself saying: write SLOWLY, make it FIT in the space, no CROSSOUTS. Yikes! These things are hard to do.

What I realized is that for me writing by hand has become the mode of last resort – used only when a keyboard or a Blackberry is not available. In the process, I have simply lost the art of handwriting that for so many years supported communication of the written word.

9 Comments:

Blogger wharman said...

I'm sure your handwriting would come back to you quickly if it were used. There's still something really nice about receiving a card in the mail, isn't there?

6:08 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Wendy -- You are probably right, but it would take some effort on my part to get out of the mentality of being able to type quickly and fix a mistake. I agree that it is nice to get a hand-written card in the mail. I have to hope all 20 recipients of my thank you notes will see it that way!

6:23 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

A handwritten thankyou is always the best to do. People really appreciate it no matter how it looks! Brings back the memories of written reports and school work.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

OL -- I hope you're right because I just finished licking my 20 envelopes shut and hand-addressing all those suckers! Whew...

10:22 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I tend to hand write notes only after I've typed/figured out my wording. Then, again, I did write out all my posts longhand while I was in Alaska. It's strange how the media are starting to meld in my mind.

I'm sure the committee chairs appreciated the time you took. A handwritten note is so nice.

11:57 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

It is a sad loss that people don't send "Real" letters and cards in the mail. This is substantiated by the lack of variety in the Hallmark card stores. There is practically no notepaper sets! I wrote 2 kids this summer while they were at camp and they were so thrilled! I write another little girl I taught who lives right in town a few streets away just so she can feel special! You get a more personal feel when you read the words in someone's handwriting!

12:11 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks to WaPo Express for picking this up!

6:47 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

Handwritten notes are so wonderful. I love the "mistakes" - crossed out words or a drop of spilled tea or whatever, makes handwritten notes that much more personal.

BTW your handwriting is not ugly!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

I think one of the reason that handwriting has become harder over the years is that with the computer we type faster than we write (not necessarily faster than we think, I still omit far too many words whilst typing), consequently, we try to speed up our writing to match our typing and the results look awful.

My wife often gets me to fill out forms and write cards because my writing is neater than hers - mostly because I block print.

Slow down and you will rediscover your penmanship.

12:40 PM  

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