Tag Archives: handwriting

My (pencil) cup runneth over

I like to write. I mean this in the physical sense: I enjoy pushing and pulling a pen across paper and leaving words in my wake. It must be something about writing itself, because moving a pen around on paper could describe drawing, and yet I’ve never really felt like making pictures with a pen. Just words.

Now to write, you need something to write on and something to write with. My paper supplies are almost reasonable, if you don’t look too closely at my stationery reserves or count how many blank books I’ve got stockpiled. I assure you, I’m working to deplete both. But then, there are the pens.

[pauses, sighs]


Rest assured, about 60% of these pens were passed along to others after the picture was taken.

It’s the color. Well, it was the color, back in college when I started writing my papers in every color of pen I could buy: a different color for each idea. (Because before personal computers, writing a paper meant first writing it out by hand and then typing up the final version.) But that doesn’t matter much anymore. Over the years I’ve moved from many colors to blue and from blue to black. I’m delighted to report that I’m still capable of writing and creativity. Really, if this is a sign of maturity, it hasn’t been documented all that well.

Now it’s the feel of the pen that matters. A great pen has a near-perfect combination of width, weight, and texture. It writes without either skipping or blurping. It doesn’t magically come up with words, of course, but I figure, if I’m frequently picking it up it because it’s so pleasant to hold, there’s always a chance the Muse will consider this an invitation and drop by for a visit. The major drawback is acquiring enough pens to open my own office supply store—like my yarn stash, I suspect my pen stash will grow throughout my life. At least it doesn’t take up half a closet!


Done properly, looped cursive is a lovely form of handwriting. Let me do it slowly enough, and my looped cursive is pretty darn proper, with Ls that arc gracefully into the upper regions before dipping below the baseline, ms and ns that bounce happily across the page, and ts that are (almost) always crossed. Unfortunately, when I write in cursive, it’s because I’m writing for speed (else I print). And when I write cursive quickly, “looped” isn’t the best descriptor of what my pen produces. Or rather, the wrong things are looped. My t and d stems develop loops they were never intended to have, while my supposedly-looped letters like f, h, and y pinch closed so tightly that they become like the women in Flatland: dangerously needle-sharp. It’s probably not a good sign when 80% of the time you write r, it can be mistaken for an undotted i. (I’ve never seen that particular characteristic mentioned in any graphology book I’ve ever read. Maybe I’ve developed an entirely original psychological quirk?)

My analogy is this: I wouldn’t willingly wear an outfit I didn’t like, even if it fit me perfectly. I would wear it grudgingly, and only if I had no better options, and the minute I had the chance to send it to charity and get it out of my closet, I would do so. Well, I don’t like my cursive, I’m using it only because I have no better options for quick writing, and if it’s a perfect graphological description of my personality, I’m in deep doo-doo. It is time to find a handwriting that I like.

See, this isn’t a brand-new realization on my part. I first figured this out a few years ago, during a journaling phase.* I even took steps back then to change things, starting with some online research. (You know, looped cursive is really ingrained in our culture; there aren’t that many alternatives out there). Out of all that, I managed to change A and S. I’m not thrilled that over time, they’ve gotten the same pinched look as the rest of my writing, but at least the foundation is good. And then my journaling craving faded and I never tackled a third letter. Obviously it’s time to resurrect this project. Even if I don’t do much with the lower-case letters, I want to change a lot of the capitals. I mean, really. Even when done carefully, the cursive Q looks like a 2. G bears hardly any resemblance to its printed form. X is made in some completely unintuitive way of sticking a 9 and a 6 back-to-back, and F is just plain odd.

It did occur to me that this is not just a private decision. Say I stick with the program this time. Say I make major changes. At some point, I’m going to have to change my legal signature. Imagine the paperwork. Admittedly, seeing the reactions might be interesting. (“Hi. I’d like to change my signature. No, I don’t have a problem with my writing hand. No, I’m not sick. No, I’m not a victim of identity theft. No, I’m not committing identity theft…”). Although given that no store or bank has ever complained about the illegible scribbles that credit card readers turn my current signature into, I don’t know why I’m worrying.

The graphological implications of all this interest me no end. But one major project at a time…

*I can ignore my cursive a good deal of the time. I print almost everything that other people see, and in the era of the computer, that’s mostly just forms and sticky notes anyway. But any time I go through a journaling phase, I end up seeing a lot of my cursive. Bleah.