Ever since I was a kid, the simple practice of handwriting has proven a real challenge for me. I distinctly remember being seven years old and completely confounded by what the teacher was saying about how to hold your pencil “properly”. You were supposed to grip your pencil just so, because if you didn’t then terrible things would happen.
It turned out that the terrible thing was that you’d develop a nub, which is what happened to me in high school after years of holding my pens and pencils incorrectly. Worse, the nub would get red and sore when I spent too long writing. Give that this was before kids were working off laptops in the classroom, I was writing by hand a lot, and my nub would often be aching by the end of the day.
My handwriting was always messy and it never got better. My cursive consisted of scrambled letters joined together like sloppy spaghetti, and it was with great frustration that I struggled to write as fast as my brain was working – mentally, I’d be a sentence or three ahead of what my hand was up to writing.
When I started uni, I switched back to writing in all caps, much as I did in primary school before we were indoctrinated into exclusively using “running writing”. This meant my penmanship was clearer to read and looked less like mad scribbles, but it also looked less adult.
I envied the mature, artful, confident handwriting of my parents, who had undergone penmanship lessons in their formative years on par with military drills. The method used to teach them cursive seems awfully draconian in this day and age…but it got results; their handwriting had a mechanical reliability to its form. They could write for hours and it would still look as precise and beautiful as it did when they started.
My handwriting has stayed much the same in the years since graduating from uni, and I still feel self-conscious about it. Now, you might argue I’m worrying over nothing. After all, we’re living in the 21st century and everyone speaks of handwriting as a dying art form. But then there’s this;
I received my advanced copies of Vanguard Prime: Wild Card today (!). It’s the second time I’ve been sent copies of a book with my name on it, and it was just as thrilling as the first. I’m also happy to say that it looks great. But the reason I bring up the issue of handwriting is because I’ll be heading out soon to promote the book’s release, and with that comes the fact that I’ll be inscribing and signing many, many copies (well…hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; if you want to be a writer some day, practice your penmanship! (Well, penpersonship). Not only is it handy for signing books, it also means you’re not beholden to a keyboard when it comes time to write. I remember taking a trip a couple of years ago and during the long flights I discovered…or rediscovered…the simple joy and satisfaction in writing by hand.
In fact, writing my first draft by hand proved a distinct advantage. When it comes time to transcribe the handwritten notes, it gives you the opportunity to do some simultaneous rewriting. You get a second draft just by doing something as simply as typing out your story.
And in case you were wondering, Vanguard Prime: Wild Card will be released on 27th February. In the meantime, I’ll be in my office practicing my handwriting. I hope I don’t hurt my nub too bad.