Sunday, 6 September 2009


I like writing.

I'm not talking about the process of academic writing, although I do like the sense of achievement when a chapter, paper, article or lecture is finished (this does not happen often enough - especially the personal research related ideas there!). I enjoyed writing my PhD thesis, although the final deadline and the re-writing processes immediately before that were not too much fun. What I'm talking about here is actually writing. By hand. With a pen.

On my way to my admin job the other day - I know this sounds strange - I felt an almost overwhelming need to write something. Anything. And I realised how much time I have spent at a computer, or shuffling papers, scribbling quick, untidy, notes or using mini post-its to mark pages relevant to lectures. It's been AGES since I have sat down and written by hand anything longer than a sentence or two, a 'happy birthday, love from me' in a card or a brief phone message scribble. And at work I had to go straight back into scribbling notes, emailing, filing etc.

Today I addressed an envelope in my very best joined up handwriting and I felt strangely pleased. I like how my careful handwriting looks (not wanting to boast too much, it is quite pretty) and it is much more satisfying than typing a letter or an envelope.

Marking undergraduate exam scripts earlier in the summer, I realised how few of them hand-write anything (either that, or the teaching of handwriting in schools has declined since I was taught 'joined up writing' and then allowed to use a fountain pen). I know no one does their best writing under the time-pressured conditions of exams, but still, some were barely legible.

I think the decline of handwriting is very sad. Not that I would do away with the wonders of word processing packages for my academic writing - cut, copy, paste makes drafting so much easier (even if sometimes starting to draft is actually easier for me with a pen and paper). But I am going to start doing more handwriting - letters to friends for example. I think - even in the increasingly computerised world where communication is almost instant through emails and social networking sites - people like to get mail. I know I do. And perhaps that is precisely because it is so rare for people to take time to actually write anything these high-tech, high-speed days.


Mosca the Grouch said...

This should have been hand written and photographed. I agree though, and have returned to pen and ink for initial drafts after a few years of solely computerised writing.

I see what you mean about letters, but considering how bad I am at keeping in touch the conventional way I'll stick to 21st century means until the oil runs out.

Autumn Song said...

I was not unaware of the irony of using a computer to write this! But unfortunately I do not yet live in the age of the digital camera...

I'm not great at the keeping in touch either, so I'm not going to disable my facebook or email accounts just yet. There's no reason not to combine the old with the new, though!