Federal bailout for the handwriting industry?

Mourning the Death of Handwriting [Time]

I know I gave up on handwriting long ago. If I handed you one of my reporter’s notebooks and you could decipher more than four or five words per page, you are some sort of secret codemaster who should be immediately sealed in a crate and sent to wherever that place is that Jeff Goldblum went when he took down an entire invading alien species using 1996 pre-broadband technology (“The alien ship is MacBook compatible! Is there anything Steve Jobs doesn’t think of?”).

I smile a bit at this, as I consider it a small victory against all those bullish things in elementary school that we always had a hunch had nothing to do with our real education, such as neatness and cursive skill, the things my report card always suffered under while the actual grades for the classes were doing more than fine (Next up we will finally lose the social stigma against “not being quiet”).

The more time I spend typing, the worse and worse my handwriting gets. Related: the more time I spend my days writing, the more my verbal

communication skills atrophy to a barely intelligible level of conversational grunts and shrugs not dissimilar to early hominid base interactions. My last gf was frustrated by this, so I wrote her an email trying to explain it. Surprisingly, her frustration levels did not ease.

Worse yet was my former roommate and coworker Justin Paprocki, whose handwriting was some sort of proto-Arabic twisted snake of a scrawl, resembling more the blips on a geriatric patent’s heart monitor as she was suddenly seized by nightmares than any actual language.

But in a weird twist, I still don’t have a tape recorder of my own, even though I have long since established a blog and a twitting thingy. And maybe some of my best writing (that you’ll never see so you’ll never know if I’m telling the truth) is spread scattershot in convulsions of black ink and greasy margin smudges like rotten infestations on the husk of dead tree I carry around in my moleskin. A lot of this writing comes in the technology interstitial periods — on the train, waiting for a plane, sitting in the corner of a bar by myself and pounding away at the daily therapy.

I can’t remember how to write a capital ‘Z’ in cursive to save my life either, but I can’t imagine a day when writing by hand isn’t the most direct conduit that best represents my attempts to shoot down the passing flock of thoughts flying by, as inefficient and scattershot as it may be.

6 responses to “D.O.H.

  1. Unfortunately, cursive Zs must are still being taught somewhere because every WalMart and Target I have been to in the past days is still selling handwriting books.

    Also – Do you seriously not have a tape recorder?? I was recently yelled at by a British reporter about “my generation’s lack of shorthand.” This was after he heard me typing while interviewing him. It’s just faster, man. Plus you can control + F stuff later. Maybe I should send this post to him.

    And I’m totes sending this to my boyfriend, who complains all the time about my lack of verbal communications skills! Especially my reliance upon pronouns, which I previously thought were a perfectly acceptable part of speech … apparently not.

    He normally likes when I send e-mails, though, because “at least I make sense” then. Geeze!

    I always wondered if it was because he was in the military and thus values very direct communications as opposed to my “I’m going to be somewhat indirect and open-ended order to make you feel comfortable so you want to open up to me” approach.

    Good to know other people who write lots have this problem, too.

  2. I started working on the Palmer method, which creates handwriting akin to that of all mid-20th Century contemporaries. It has actually improved my moleskin-on-the-subway writing measurably. The only problem is now the guy next to me can actually legibly read that I’m writing about his mohawk-Thundercat t-shirt-headband-vintage roller skates getup.


  3. Kathlyn, I definitely agree that typing notes is better than writing them by hand, but on the go I can still make due with my own ad hoc shorthand I’ve developed over the years. The only downside is when it gets so rushed and sloppy that even I can’t read it. Sometimes I wish I could ctrl + F (or apple + F) life in general.

    I agree with you on the written communication front. Who’s to say that verbal is the only standard for intimate communication anyway? I’d rather write something down and actually have a fair chance at expressing myself well and being understood than try to talk it out and have the words sound confused, rushed and foreign.

    I think this is also why I may also be considering the possibilities of online courtship.

    Oh, and E — anyone wearing a Thundercat t shirt should be proud to be written about.

  4. I once called Paprocki’s brand of handwriting “one of the first attempts of Sanskrit.” It was, indeed, horrible.

    I’m so reliant now on the computer that I dread taking handwritten notes on important interviews. Now, I just record everything and write down time-stamps on the important stuff.

    But that’s just me.

  5. True story – I received “unsatisfactory” marks in elementary school language arts class because of my bad handwriting. I also failed my senior writing proficiency test for the same reason. And guess what – now I get paid to write. Suck it.

  6. Pingback: Cursive – foiled again! Or, Scribble Jam « jeffvrabel.com

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