Everything you’re about to read was written by hand and a black Bic Ultra Round Stic Grip on plain lined paper. No computer in sight. No clacking keyboard. No internet, and sure as hell no spell check. And this isn’t the first handwritten work of length I’ve written today.That’s because I’ve decided to devote more time to handwritten communication. My handwriting is something approaching atrocious, and though you are likely able to read it I defy you to enjoy doing so. But I’m not proud of the fact. I’d like to do better.

I remember getting handwritten notes as a child from my Nana (that is, my English grandmother) in the most elegant, old-world scrawl. I’d read and reread them again. Sometimes, they were only a few sentences long, a quick hello or congratulations, but I loved the raw and palpable feel of them, the curves and slant of the cursive letters. I still wish I could write like that. The problem is, after third grade, I scrapped all use of cursive, but not quite to the benefit of my print writing. It’s a skill we don’t highly value these days. And as the years have led me to more and more computer use, my typing skills have far outstripped my handwriting ones. My hand is quickly tiring as I write this sentence, and as you can see I haven’t gotten far. I’m out of practice.

There were days not too far distant when everything of worth that I wrote, I wrote first by hand before typing. Fiction, poetry, prose, creative essays. In part, I felt this was a good way to force an automatic revised draft as I typed and tweaked what I had written. But I also felt that something more elemental, more raw and truer, came to the page when I eliminated the permanent distraction and unretractable connectedness that is the computer. All the dross is skimmed away, and the more fundamental connection between mind and pen reigns secure. I find I am more in tune with what I write this way. Maybe this is because the process is slower, more thorough. Maybe it’s because it is more meditative and focused. Maybe the breathing more naturally matches the rhythms of the pen, all fingers moving in unison on once-living paper instead of darting autonomous across a plastic landscape of isolated letters and functions. Somewhere in all of that is a deeper connection without substitute.

I wrote a letter to someone I love today. That was the first handwritten undertaking of the morning. It was also the first real thing I did, period. I think it expresses my mind and heart more accurately than an email or text message ever could. It hearkens back to an older time when we took things slow and girded them with substance because we had to. Now it takes real effort. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this up. I don’t know when my hand will finally tire or time will draw me up short of my intentions. But I know I’d like to see her face when she opens the mailbox to find my letter. There’s a small chance she won’t be able to make out every word I’ve written. It won’t matter. The tangible curves and slants will abide the words’ intent. And she’ll know I meant every one of them.

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