Okay, nobody actually writes in cursive anymore. Unless you’re from the ancient days when handwriting was an actual subject in school. Like my mom. But hey, it’s an alliteration and it sounds cooler than ‘Keys or Pens?’, or ‘Keys or Handwriting?’, or ‘Keys or Block Letters?’. So I lured you in here. Sue me.
This question, no matter how it’s worded, stems from the fact that somewhere through the stumbling of years, the beauty and creativity symbolized by a cursive page written in a journal or on a loose leaf page of paper was replaced by the quickness of the keyboard and the blinking cursor’s promise of endless possibilities. Especially for writers born in the 2000s, and those yet to be born, the blank page is no longer an invitation to create – the empty screen is.
We know what we have gained. We can type more quickly, erase with a button, copy and paste, restructure documents with one hand, organize our files in a neat list so we can open them with a click, type ‘flds;afkld;sjafk;ldsajfkl;dsajfl;dsa’ over and over when we’ve hit a wall, which for no reason at all makes us feel much better than sitting and doing nothing does, then delete that nonsense with a simple command+a delete. Pointing all of this out is easy. Most people would say it’s obvious. But, in addition to everything we’ve gained, have we lost something, too?
Maybe in return for quicker, easier writing, our stories lose a little bit of their character. Maybe having time to think as we’re writing is good. It lets us go more places in our head, weigh options instead of just going for what pops in there. Can you imagine Arthur Conan Doyle sitting and pondering in front of a computer, with his face reflecting the cold light of a backlit computer screen? Or do we think he probably sat staring out a window, thinking adventurous thoughts as the sun streamed in through the glass? What about Hemingway? Did he have to turn the brightness down on his computer because he was staring at it for 6 hours at a time and starting to get blurry vision? It’s not such a romantic notion, is it? But the question is: does that matter? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the romanticism of writing is important. Maybe writing is just evolving.
Everyone knows the popular JK Rowling story. She was sitting on a train and the idea of a black haired child with a lightning scar popped into her head. If she could have opened her computer and written it all down right away we wouldn’t have the Harry Potter we know and love. She’s even said in interviews that the extra time to let the story bloom in her mind was the most important thing that ever happened to Harry. Occasionally, taking a longer time to write something down gives us more time for thought, and helps us go somewhere truly magical.
Now – and I put this disclaimer at the end because hopefully I’ve already tricked you into reading all of this – I have to admit that I’m on the keyboard side of things. I didn’t even write this by hand and then type it up onto my blog (lost an opportunity for a case study there… Oops). But I know that there are still people out there who prefer to write by hand, and even as a computer user I’m slightly enamored by the idea of sitting at a desk with a fountain pen and some good, thick paper, and just letting the ideas come for hours at a time.
So, are there any writers out there who write in cursive (or block letters, for the inelegant clowns, like me, among us)? I know some people journal by hand because they find it calming, or it’s a ritual. Do you journal by hand? Does anybody out there do a part of their fiction process by hand? What do you think about it? What do you see as the pros and cons of writing by hand? Of writing on the computer?