Handwritten text

This week I read an article on The Guardian that made me think. It was about the fact that handwriting is obsolete and that schools are stopping to teach cursive as part of their curriculum. You can read the article here

While generally I’m quite forward-thinking and I enjoy adopting new trends and technologies, I am also quite traditional in certain areas. True, I am not afraid of chopping my hair off, download the latest app to tell me what’s going on in my town, or learn how to program. I think it’s good to evolve and look towards the future. However, it’s also important to retain a sense of the past.

I am still not convinced about ebooks. Sure, it saves paper, but they use batteries, and their manufacturing and components aren’t that safe (batteries and all that). True, one ebook device can hold many books, which would have otherwise been made of paper, but if I read on an electronic device, I have no sense as to how long the book is, how much I’m advancing in the story, or even can’t remember much about it if you ask me a month later. Personally, I enjoy the feeling of paper in my fingers, the way bookstores smell, and using bookmarks (which don’t have to necessarily have been made for the purpose, I use train tickets, pieces of paper, or whatever I have at hand).

The possibility to order products online is astonishing. The fact that we can check what we want on a website, and after a few clicks, we will receive it at home is impressive. Having drones delivering my products, I’m not so sure about it. Sure, they are probably faster, and maybe more efficient in terms of number of deliveries and cost, but they lack the human understanding of situations. The fact that they will be programmed to follow A, B or C options and that if you need an option D, there might not be any way of making it happen.

When I read the article about handwriting, even though I could see the point against teaching cursive at schools, I don’t agree with it. True, we do everything online these days, and hey, after all, I’m writing this post on a laptop; however, I feel like it’s an important part of the learning process and our cultural heritage to just get rid of it.

It might be because I was taught how to write properly and clear, but I do learn things better when I write them down. They call it muscle memory, and it might be that. To be honest, the process of reading something, understanding it, and reword it in order to write it down for future reference, makes me prefer pen and paper over a screen. Is typing faster? Sure it is, at least from my personal experience, I type much faster than I write.

When I type, I go over what I write and I press the delete key several times, my fingers some times get all confused and the keys aren’t pressed in the right order, making typos. I don’t do that when I write on paper. I think about what I’m going to write, and I make an effort to make it legible and correct. I make mistakes, of course, but the fact that a mistake will tarnish the page forever, by either leaving a crossed-out word, or a Tip-Ex stain (ugh, I hate TipEx, I actually never use it), makes me more self-aware, makes me care.

Recently, I was asked at work to make some name cards for a table, to be used at an event. They needed them to be clear, and nicely written. I asked if they wanted me to choose some nice font on the computer and print the names on stickers, and they replied they wanted the cards to be handwritten (which made me very happy, I must say). When I was about to start writing, pen in hand, I realised I was shaking. I put the cap on again and took a blank piece of paper and I practised. I printed some examples of the different names, so I could have a reference, and then I proceeded to write each name a few times, so I could get a sense of how the letters flowed. Once I was happy with it, I then wrote the names on the cards with a pencil, in case I needed to make corrections.

After I wrote all the names, I took the black pen and traced over the pencil, making some adjustments here and there, and making sure that the result was as good as I could make it, erasing the pencil once the ink was dry. Yes, my hand was shaking, and yes, some letters looked a bit wonky. Could have I done it faster in a computer? For sure, but it wouldn’t have looked the same.

In a world of IKEA, and Primark, and H&M, and mass production (and mass consumption!) we need handcrafted products. After all, you don’t go around saying: Wow, I would give everything I have to own a Primark scarf!

While I was reading the article, I could see why teaching cursive for the sake of it is a waste of time. However, if we forget how to write by hand, then we will be at a disadvantage.

I always talk about handmade things, about accomplishing stuff yourself… I do this because I think you should be able to fend for yourself as much as you can without depending on someone else or on a computer to survive.

If there was no electricity tomorrow, if this was it (and it might not be tomorrow, but at the rate we’re going through our natural resources, it’s not such a crazy idea), if there was a war that meant no more fuel and no more electricity were available to the public, how long would you survive?

If tomorrow, you couldn’t order a pizza online, if you couldn’t use the tube to get to your favourite shopping centre to buy your clothes and your gadgets, if you couldn’t use your phone to check your Facebook… What would you do?

I’ve never hunted myself, so I guess that would be a problem for me, but I know plenty of other basic skills to know that I wouldn’t be entirely defenceless. I also know that if I needed to communicate, without speaking, with someone else and I didn’t have a computer or a smartphone with me, I could.

Recently, I read a blog in which they said that being fit meant using your body to the best of its abilities, to know that if you were suddenly trapped, you would be able to lift a rock blocking your way out, that you would be able to run in order to survive, or walk in order to find food. I know to many of us it sounds like crazy talk; after all, we live in a society where the chances of us having to run for our lives sound pretty slim. Let me put it this way, if you were to work tomorrow, and the lifts were out of order, would you be able to climb all the flights of stairs to get to your desk? (If you live in a ground floor or so, you’re one of the lucky ones!)

Personally, I know I can run at least 21 kilometres in one go, with only a bit of water every few kilometres (I did a half marathon in Madrid, at midday in April, where the first available water station was at 10k because of a miscalculation), I could be able to climb a few flight of stairs, thanks to usually walking on the stairs or escalators in the tube, or doing some cardio as frequently as possible. I can cook meals from scratch, and I could find my way in the wild if I needed to without a compass or GPS. I also know how to knit, which might seem silly, but that means that I could potentially make myself warm clothes to survive winter, and that I would be able to weave a shelter if need to.

Handwriting might seem a cumbersome task when we have everything at the click of a button but unfortunately, not everyone has access to computers. Of course, writing might not be a survival skill, but I would like to think that if I didn’t have a computer tomorrow, I could still send a handwritten letter to my parents or my nan.

We spend our lives online nowadays. I search for a restaurant on my laptop, so I can send a friend the link as a suggestion for a date, and I receive a notification on my phone alerting me that I should take this and that bus to get to the restaurant. I looked at products on Amazon, and then I get ads on my email letting me know the product I’m after is available on certain websites. When my suggested friends list started populating guys I knew from Tinder, it made me worry. It was either checking my Tinder account, or scanning my phone to see who was on my WhatsApp or similar. Thanks to my mobile phone contract, they know who I call, when, how long, whether I use data or minutes. They know my bank account, the shops I purchase from online, what food I get delivered, the apps I download, the emails I send, the pictures I take. My Oyster card would tell you a detail account of all the places I’ve been, at what times, and what my favourite routes are. All our details are online… Do you think I’m paranoid? Think of the hacking of celebrity photos, the recent cases of doxing, or the hacking of Sony emails.

When I receive a handwritten letter, or thank-you note, I appreciate not only the gesture, but also the taste, and knowing that that person took the time and the effort to write that note for me. That person didn’t just copy and pasted a message and added my name at the top.

Now that we’re on the Christmas period, many of us send cards to our loved ones. How many of those are just printed cards? I would like to think you wouldn’t consider sending a Christmas card without writing a brief note to let the other person know they matter to you.

Have you send any handwritten cards this Christmas? When was the last time you wrote using pen and paper? What do you think about schools not teaching cursive anymore?