Writing Tools: Cursive on paper

I’ve tried a lot of different ways of writing.

When I was a child, I wrote by hand, as personal computers didn’t exist (what folks like Steve Jobs had in their garage doesn’t count). I was offered an electric typewriter, as my aunt had one, but I didn’t know how to type*.

As an adult, I’ve used many different tools, as have most writers. Various software, various hardware, trying out different things to see what works best. The process of taking scenes and putting them into actual words is different for everyone, but I wanted to share my experiences.

This first post is about the most traditional: handwriting on actual paper.

In general, I don’t like it for prose (poetry is different, but I can’t explain how). I’ve talked with people who get a sense of inspiration from the physical act, but for me that doesn’t out weigh that there are a number of problems with it.

In the first place, while jotting down notes on the fly is always important, remembering where I shoved the sticky note/napkin/receipt drives me crazy. I’ve also tried to keep one of those tiny memo books in my bag. Then I take it out to type into my computer program, forget to put it back, and am left without anything to write on.

Against my will, I’ve learnt to use my email app on my cellphone to take notes; I may find it annoying, but it’s always there.

My second issue is with notebooks. Pretty ones, plain ones, they still have to be carried about, and hopefully not forgotten when I get off the bus. Also, random strangers often feel free to read over my shoulder; it’s weird and very disturbing. They also feel free to just flip through the book, and comment on my poor penmanship. Ugh. But the fact is that the physical space required for paper just isn’t that handy. An email takes up no space, and I can look at it from a number of different devices.

Third problem: Printing has become the norm, and printing is slow. Cursive is faster (and short-hand is incredibly fast), but neither can compete once you know how to type. Most schools don’t actually teach cursive writing any more. I’m old enough that I learned cursive, but the lack of cursive might become a problem eventually. Or not (I’m not altogether convinced it’s useful as anything but art). Though signatures sure are going to seem weirdly readable.

Sample of the dying art of illegible signature scribbles.

Last problem: reading your own handwriting can be hard. Sometimes when I’m writing in a hurry I’ll throw words together as fast as I can to keep up with the words in my head. Then I’ll put it down, and weeks or months later I’ll pick it up only to find that I can’t read it. Was that pregnant or parent? Why would either apply? Persistent? Pleasant? The time spent puzzling over the words would have been better spent on getting back into the story groove. My short-hand, which I learned because I was trying to write faster, lol, was even harder to read**.

As a last resort, I’ll hand write. If electricity suddenly disappeared, I’d probably hand write***. But when I can, I type stuff into a computer, and save it in multiple locations. I’m a bit paranoid, but at least I can always find the story and read what I wrote.


*Yes, I’m old. Back in the day, they didn’t offer typing classes till high school and you had to use up one of your electives to take it. Grrr.

**I also once created a symbolic alphabet to keep strangers and coworkers from reading what I was writing. It was great for a month, but I eventually just threw it out because I lost the key.

***If electricity disappeared, I’d imagine that there’d be a hell of a lot of other, bigger problems to worry about.


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