A study in penmanship: Can you read this writing?


I have a conundrum.

I try to journal a couple of times a week. I’ll stop what I’m doing for ten to fifteen minutes to write about my worries, fears, hopes, dreams, things that I’m thankful for and even upcoming events on our calendar. It’s all pretty run-of-the-mill stuff.

I’ve found that when I put away my laptop, tablet or phone and pick up a journal, good things happen. Several scientific studies agree with me pointing to everything from a boost in memory and comprehension to increased creativity and improved overall mental health.

The key, however, is putting pen to paper. While typing from a keyboard is fine, several of the studies have found that we actually learn better when we write out our observations on paper. The act of writing thoughts down increases activity in the brain’s motor cortex.

notebook

My unique challenge

These are great things. My challenge though is that my handwriting in recent years has gotten worse. As I’ve written in the past in my blog on the lost art of letter writing, my handwriting has always had its share of challenges. In other words, it’s unique. If that were it, I would still be fine; unique would be manageable. Unfortunately, however, my handwriting has deteriorated to the point of becoming unrecognizable.

I’m not saying that I have a calling as one of those doctors who writes out prescriptions that no one can read, but I would certainly give them a run for their money. (I definitely missed my calling! If only I didn’t mind the sight of blood.)

IMG_9206For example, I wrote a journal entry several weeks ago and quickly put it aside. I pulled it out today because I liked the way I phrased something and wanted to leverage a phrase or two for an email that I had to send to a work colleague.

I pulled open the journal and stared. I couldn’t read the entry. I could read parts of sentences, but nothing of others. It was a mess. I put it down for a second. I had to be just looking at it wrong. I took my glasses off and tried again. For the life of me, I couldn’t make out what I had written. I had obviously written the text quickly, but it now looked like gibberish. I could make out letters, but not words. It was a complete and utter mess.

I eventually figured out the text, but mainly because I remembered what I had written. If I were to put the journal down and come back to it in six months to a year later, I doubt I would’ve been able to read it. I shook my head in disgust.

Falling off a cliff

My wife tells stories about her parochial school teachers and how handwriting was a focus of the class. She tells stories of one particular nun who made it a point to make sure student’s wrote neatly and legibly. I never experienced that, but I still remember several of my elementary school teachers going over and over good penmanship. Mrs. Smucker, Ms. Peirce and a slew of other teachers, wherever you might be, I apologize from the bottom of my heart.

IMG_9200My handwriting has always been different. It slashes downward like it’s falling off the page. It goes up when it should be going down. When I type on a keyboard, I try to use the proper grammar and capitalization. When I write out by hand, I tend to use capitalization wherever I want. Some letters have caps, some don’t. It’s messy and neat all at the same time. When I’m in a hurry, though, it’s especially challenging to read.

Friends have long poked fun of my handwriting, comparing it to something that you might see in a Halloween Horror Movie. They compare it to a chainsaw wielding lunatic. Others have compared it —much nicer to my way of thinking—to a cross between calligraphy and Comic Sans, the informal sans-serif font that many people love to hate. Yea, I know that’s still an insult, but I’ll take Comic Sans over everything else that they’ve throw my way.

In any event, I’m not sure when my handwriting started to get worse, but I’ve noticed a definite drop-off. I’m not sure if it’s the first traces of carpal tunnel syndrome or the need for more Calcium in my diet for stronger muscles and bones, but I’ve noticed that the strength in my wrists and forearms has disappeared in recent years, leaving my handwriting a shell of it’s former self. When I’m in a hurry, it goes from looking crisp and clean to a blended mess.

IMG_9203Limited solutions

In any event, I have a problem with no real solution.

I know what I need to do. I need to slowdown and worry less about racing to fill up each journal entry.  Instead, I need to take time to write out each word so that it can obviously be read.

In the end, it’s a pretty simple solution. It will take some more time, but in these crazy times that we live in, when rushing around is a fact of life, maybe that’s not such a bad idea after all.

 

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