Penmanship, a disappearing art! #ThrowbackThursday

Just under 3 years ago I was living the high life in London, under the complete illusion that I was the next big thing in talent scouting, writing, production etc etc so many dreams so many things to achieve before getting there! Regardless, it was a time of my life in which I insisted on immersing myself in as much amateur theatre, performances, comedy etc as possible, to see acts grow and become the next big thing. I knew this time would end soon, as I had already accepted that I would be moving home shortly after graduating because responsibility was calling. So I did, and this post is something I wrote about a particular experience I had that really spoke to me very loudly, especially as a blogger and aspiring published writer. I hope you enjoy it!

#ThrowbackThursday – originally written and published on 21st January 2013

A week or so ago, my house-mates and I attended an underground, free stand-up comedy evening. There were two wonderful performers that were testing their material for their Edinburgh Fringe shows. Both shows were wonderfully witty, informed, and furthermore, they were simply different. Uniqueness is something that most artists thrive for, Paul McGarrity marketing himself as an awkward man with a brilliant historical knowledge and Ben Van Der Velde wanting to unite the World through letter writing. Both approached subjects that were extremely relevant today as we lose touch with certain things we only talked about in school days or never even tried!

It may seem like I am veering from the subject, as the title suggests, but I promise I am not. Ben Van Der Velde instigated an urge in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. As he convinced me to participate in his fantastically mad idea of writing a letter to a dear one that he will personally hand deliver in the hopes of beginning a series of chain POST, I began to think: ‘Gosh, when did I stop hand writing!?’

After a mere two paragraphs my hand was aching from the extending and contorting, the swishing and swaying, the dance between pen and paper that was so precise it could only be choreographed by years of practice. This made me think of all the times I used to handwrite: essays, notes, letters, scripts, short stories, you name it, I wrote it. Yet now, slave to modern technology, my fingers slim down and my wrists rest rather than work. As I tap ferociously on a keyboard and lose all connection with what I write it strikes me that everybody is losing this connection too!

Penmanship is a slowly disappearing art form! As schools worldwide opt to have tests taken on computers and others even choose to teach children how to type rather than write, handwriting is going extinct. Many dialogues have began on the subject. For example, in the USA it has been recently added to their famous SATs, a 25 minute handwritten essay question. Many schools have complained about this as they claim their students are not prepared for the task, and the students too seem to think that although capable of achieving high scoring grades, their writing will not be understandable to examiners. Yet, they stick by their guns – stubborn schools – that their curriculum will not be altered for the students to pass one test! Surely that claim is void, as the SATs are the exams that guarantee the futures of their students. Well colour me blind, hard-headedness takes you far, and this certainly will lead to an array of parent complaints!

TED.com began a discussion on the extinction of handwriting, transforming it in an art-form only practised by a select group of people. It seems the instigator of this discussion (Thomas Quinones) took a writing class in a local community college, and noticed that in a class with ages ranging from 16 through to 50, the elder generations were able to keep up with the writing. He says that most younger students seemed to lack the manual agility to manoeuvre the pen at their will, or write cursive and legible words. It seemed to the younger generations a hard task, where as the older grew concerned for the potential take over of computer generated words and the loss of penmanship! Sarah Connor is certainly right, the robots are soon going to take over and we aren’t even trying to stop it! (Yes, that was a reference to the Terminator, and yes I do seek salvation from the technological world!)

There aren’t many pure pleasures in life left any more (pun intended) but I remain adamant that pouring ones soul into a piece of paper through the immediate artistry of their hand and the ball of a pen is one of the few! A form of release, of freedom, of self expression and one of the only things that make each and every human being unique! How can something that has stemmed so many studies can possibly be falling into oblivion?!

Calligraphy, Graphology, Cursive, Typography, Signature, Handwriting all these terms that relate to the act of writing on a piece of paper and can do so much, but mainly identify a person. Like how I know my mother’s and sister’s handwritings so perfectly. How my best friend writes as if the surface were always uneven underneath his piece of paper, and how my father writes for people with magnifying glasses. How my tutor slurs so many of her letters it takes me a while to decipher her R’s from the N’s and M’s and how my ex boyfriend wrote practically everything in block letters so I would know exactly what he was saying to me. Handwriting is an art form that everyone can practise, yet most choose to ignore it.

I commend some of my friends for still carrying notebooks in their bags just in case inspiration strikes them. I admire Ben Van Der Velde for making me write a letter. I admire my mother for handwriting essays into each and every single Christmas card she posts to people in the season, and believe me there are lots! And I commend myself for handwriting most of this and typing it after only to post it. The last time I wrote in an exam was in the summer of 2011, the last time I wrote a letter was last week Monday, and the last time I wrote on a notebook was about an hour ago as I noted the name of a book I might want to read for my dissertation.

I for one will have children who write to their hearts content (even if it is forced upon them!) and I will not give in to the take over of modern age technology. Just as I like reading books in paperbacks not kindles, I like reading my life histories in my handwritten diaries, collages, poems, short stories and bits of scrap dialogue that I HAND WRITE here, there and everywhere. So happy writing and don’t let the 21st century be a victim to modern technology. Let us keep alive one of the most ancient human traditions!

(Please support Paul D McGarrity and Ben Van Der Velde in their journey up to Edinburgh fringe 2013! Follow them on twitter under: @PaulDuncanMcG and @BenVanDerVelde – supporting artists everyday!)

3 years on from this post on penmanship, and not much has changed in my opinion. I realise the irony of me saying this as I post in a virtual world and this was definitely typed onto the computer, however, I still keep a diary with all my appointments, note books for my creative bursts and notes for the blog, I hand write shopping lists and love letter to my one and only. Hand writing continues to be the way I decipher whether my loved one have put thought into their festive cards or have just copied something from the internet. It is one of the only art forms that we all practice and makes us all unique. I have a dream that when I am a successful published writer, someone will want to take all my notebooks and publish them or display them in some sort of literary museum – dream on!

To keep up with the performers mentioned here, please visit their websites:

Ben Van Der Velde www.benvandervelde.com – you can find more information on his 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Chain Letter

Paul McGarrity www.paulduncanmcgarrity.co.uk

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