The Home Stretch
I look at my calendar. It’s November 29! I’ve made it almost all the way to the end of the month! My 30-day commitment has come the penultimate day, the penultimate writing. Interestingly, I have no sense of relief here. Just an odd curiosity of how today’s writing will develop. Some of the days this past month, I researched a topic, carefully selected images from my collections or the internet and wrote from research notes and outlines. Other days, like today will be, I wrote extemporaneously, allowing the topic to develop as I (figuratively at least) put pen to paper.
I have learned that I actually can write something meaningful on the computer. I always wrote my legal arguments, contracts, evaluations and other work-related documents directly to the computer. But personal and creative writing, I have always done by hand. A fine pen – lately with some good roller ink – in hand, and a notebook with lined or unlined pages, often with a nice cover. Although I’m just as happy to write on a steno pad or spiral notebook. But always with a good pen and always in cursive.
This spending a month penning on the computer shows me that I can write things that make me happy, even if they’re not written in cursive. There’s a fair measure of nostalgic sadness associated with that. When I look back at these 30 posts, I will not be able to look at my handwriting and tell how I was feeling that day. Because of the fine correction facility of word processing, I won’t be able to see a graphic of how I changed some words or thoughts. No cross-outs or misspellings or changed directions are memorialized on the computer. Cursive is beautiful, it’s my personal art.
Each person’s cursive is different, unique and offers a window to their personalities. Sometimes the font I use will tell me a little about how I was feeling that day, or week, but fonts are mostly neutral and don’t really tell people who read my work, anything about me. My cursive on the other hand. . .
I’ve read recently that with the advent of universal computer use, school districts are considering not teaching cursive any more. I think it would be a loss to everyone if we didn’t continue to write. I believe the unique “signature” of each person’s cursive is an expression we humans shouldn’t easily give up. In China, it matters more “how” a person wrote his or her words than the actual words themselves. “The phrase on that wall was written by Deng Xiaoping, in his calligraphy,” said my guide in Lijiang. IN HIS OWN HAND, I realized. And that matters a lot to those people. Each person’s calligraphy is different. (This is not Deng’s.)
When I was still practicing law and developing my “shorthand” for taking verbatim notes on the examination of witnesses, I still used my cursive, and not only did I use the short terms and symbols that told me absolutely accurately what a witness had said, I had other symbols and emphasis to tell me the import of something. An underline, a double or triple overwrite, the size of ALL CAPS. Two inch tall letters speak differently from letters that fit between the lines. Sometimes I drew lines mirroring the faces of jurors, witnesses or other lawyers. Looking back, I could tell what people were thinking at that moment. Those intuitive directions cannot be created on a computer with a keyboard.
I will be sad if cursive goes away. R.I.P.