For 24 days in December, I write a note to each of my kids. I write tiny handwritten notes. 120 of them. (Actually, I write 115/120. Ever-Patient does 5.)
I write letters to them when they are away from home. I write letters to them when I am away from home. I write on our chalkboards. I write on lists on the fridge. My writing is found all throughout our home.
I handwrite in my journals – all my little thoughts, my quotes collected, my morning page prayers/rants, my to-do lists, my monthly re-caps of all things that I did well, the things I came short on, and what I have learned. I handwrite most rough drafts of my posts and then dump everything on the computer, editing as I type.
Visiting with my grandfather yesterday, I remembered how meticulous he was with his handwriting. My grandfather wrote his individual alphabet letters with such care, and he took his time making sure every ‘t’ was crossed at exactly the right angle. His ascenders and descenders lined up. I tried to even copy his ‘g.’ He would write the sincerest messages in each birthday card, graduation card, and wedding card:
He still addresses every Christmas gift envelope to his grandchildren. His letters a little less straight, a little less legible. I have watched him painstakingly write each letter, struggling to hold the pen, shooing away my aunts who try to write for him.
I found a small piece of paper, what looks like a budget or an instalment schedule of payment, that my grandmother jotted down:
I can only guess that it had to do with fees for their immigration. For a family without a lot of money, I can only imagine how her head must of been spinning or maybe focused? What did the circled amounts mean?
After she passed away, I found an envelope full of all my cards and letters that I had written to her. I’ve always wondered if she ever took them out to read or just kept them, unable to let go of them just as I have trouble letting go of my own children’s handwritten cards. I have found comfort in finding these scraps of my grandmother’s handwriting in her prayer books and on lists that maybe meant nothing to her. I can touch the paper and feel the difference in the pressure applied to the pen, perhaps in moments of frustration and anger. I trace the flourishes in her capital letters with my fingers. I hear her voice as I read her handwriting.
My children groan when I tell them it’s time to practice their handwriting. Some are perfecting their printing. Some are learning cursive. Some write with fountain pens and play with cursive and calligraphic writing. We do lesson work, often writing rough drafts first and then slowly working on a neat and legible final draft. Let’s just say that I am a stickler for care and I can often be heard saying, “Haste makes waste people!”
I use the “Handwriting Without Tears” books for practice. We always warm up with some form drawing and then the kids do some pages in their books:
(These are her special glasses for printing practice…there are no lenses in them.)
Sometimes I encourage practicing cursive slowly by lighting a candle:
I may have already talked about why I feel it’s important to dedicate time to handwriting but Carrie at Parenting Passageway has a great cursive article on it. And here are some articles that may add to that explanation: Read here and here.
I want them to write. I want them to feel comfortable forming their ideas and transferring them onto paper. Typing can be picked up easily. But writing takes patience and care. Their individuality can be developed through handwriting.
Part of you comes through in your handwriting. I look back on journals and without even reading the content, I can tell if I was stressed, sad, happy, grateful. Frustration comes through in bold caps and harsh underlines of certain words. If my writing was small and the words are faintly written, I was scared. Doodles mean I was waiting somewhere or for someone. I have recently started creating bullet journals using this moleskine. The creator of the bullet journal, Ryder Carroll, says:
There‘s something incredibly powerful about making your mark on paper. It’s the moment when an idea leaves your mind and looks back at you for the first time. I’ve never been able to replicate that experience digitally. It’s not unlike Skyping with a close friend vs. having them over for dinner…
#2 bought me this magazine because she thought I would like it:
It’s a little story about receiving a handwritten letter in the mail. She recalled a summer when they had written postcards to their friends about their vacation. I told her about my days in school writing secret letters to friends and when I moved away, I kept in touch with my best friend for many years through letter writing. There is an excitement in receiving a letter in the mail, especially one without a specific reason attached to it. It is merely a good thought materialized and delivered physically into your hands. There is almost an alive and deeply intentional quality to a handwritten letter that is not existent in an email or a text.
Today we are writing letters to friends that we haven’t seen in awhile. We write without the expectation of a return letter. We write because we want to say ‘hello’ and that we are thinking of them right now. We write because we want them to feel that excitement of receiving a letter in the mail addressed to them and only them. I watch each of them write a little differently.
I came across this quote from a writer named Philip Hensher who says that handwriting “involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate and individual.”
For my daughter’s 16th birthday, I gave her an anthology of poems and short stories that my mom had given me for my 16th birthday. I gave her the exact book that I had received complete with notes in the margins and underlined sentences that resonated with me. I added new notes that explained why certain stories or poems had more of an impact on me now at 36. It’s in the margins where the interesting things can be found – the scribbled inferences and afterthoughts, the clues to a mystery that she will solve as time passes. I have recently begun writing more in the margins, unafraid to leave my mark in books I plan to keep.
Handwriting is an intimate expression. No one dots my ‘i’s quite like I do or makes an ‘o’ at such a peculiar angle. I mix between all uppercase letters with the occasional words in slanted italics with serifs for emphasis. I can switch to cursive when I want to quote something or I am writing lessons on the chalkboard.
Although 115 tiny love notes written annually may seem excessive and very exhausting at times, I will keep writing them. My handwritten letters to my children will always keep us connected. They know they were from me – not typed up by a mysterious hand in some generic font that is used by millions. They have seen me fill out forms, make lists, and sign greeting cards. They see how my hand holds the pen and how I angle my paper just right. They have seen me write in a flurry with my head down or paint letters on a banner. I know that one day when they read my journals or my saved letters for them, they will be able to see me writing at our dining room table deep in thought with pen in hand.
Your handwriting is an expression of you and only you. Celebrate it by giving it away. Today write a letter. Grab a piece of pretty paper and your favourite pen. Write it to you, to your partner, to your child, to a friend, to a family member, or to whoever you want to send a little happiness to.
When was the last time you wrote a letter? Do you handwrite often or have moved to digital expression entirely?