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Here is a piece we wrote about handwriting and typing.
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What’s The Big Deal About Handwriting? – Op-Ed Piece
There are times when I have heard criticism with writing that I won’t stand for here. The review is not of the stories that are written, whether they are lifeless or unoriginal, nor are they of the characters that we see on a page, but of another take altogether that doesn’t have anything to do with storytelling or even grammar. It is an opinion that I feel is not warranted and is only there for one to present a reason that they don’t like those who practice that action. I am talking about handwriting. Yes, I mean the act of actually writing out your name on a note as if you were the Sex Pistols telling the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame they are not coming. I mean a John Hancock that you only ever really use when you are paying at a restaurant, and at this current rate of technological adjustment by the youth, that may be out of style before I am done with this piece. I mean the act of using a pen and a piece of paper to put down a few letters to make a somewhat coherent sentence. Sometimes I do this last one, but that is mostly by mistake.
Why do people give so much stock into physical handwriting? What gives? Why have we glorified this act and vilified any who reject it and embrace typing full-on?
There is some reluctance to accept our laptops and phones taking over our world because, as far as any of us know, writing has been one of the most human things ever. Right next to opposable thumbs, guns, and land ownership, it is very human to compose words on a piece of paper. We can’t really talk about ourselves or write about ourselves without bringing up our words on a pen. The leftover fragments from past civilizations are what we distinguish between sophistication and barbarian. If a culture is smart enough, we simply wonder where are their written works, because we understand those works are what make our current culture different from the other primates on this planet.
If you buy complete works of William Shakespeare, which if you are any sort of reader, you should do, you will find a quill on the cover of the book. The Bard wrote out all those fancy meters physically as he pondered on life and probably tried to make his way through whatever plague he lived through at the time. This physical writing was, of course, finished by him asking the question he is most known for, “Ya think that people will think that I am not real one day?” The image we use to define the best writer of all time is the tool he used to write the very words we quote from him.
The Founding Fathers have imagery of quills and handwritten words that are very prevalent in our culture too. Who can’t say those iconic words of Jefferson without thinking of the paper it was on? Independence Day in America is celebrated not for a battle won or a disease cured, but for a document written. That is how profoundly we are attached to words in America; we set off fireworks and eat hot dogs to commemorate the meaning of lines written with a quill by a guy none of us ever met.
The written word is so vital to humanity’s history; we teach one of the most important moments is when we no longer had to write with those damn quills again. I am talking about the Gutenberg Press. That changed literature more than any book could, simply because it helped produce so many of the books at that time. Readership went up not because of the great writer but because there were more books available to read. We put so much stock into handwriting that when we no longer had to do it so much, we made it a point to tell others in the future of that event.
One of the most popular philosophical questions asked by scholars includes a very pen. Is the pen mightier than the sword? At this point, we all have to admit that those two sides have really upgraded themselves since that first question was posed. The sword can now destroy the world. The pen can now control it. Nevertheless, the pen is in this conversation, not a laptop or even a typewriter.
I even see contemporary writers talk of outlines they make for their next book, not with a laptop or a computer, but with their own notebook that they bought at the local store. They are promoting that their expansion creatively is enhanced through the use of physical writing. By writing out the words, they say that it helps their writing. They don’t present the other side of the coin either, since that is not why they are sharing the information. They only simply want to give advice to any reader, not start a conversation.
Let’s do a quick review on why pens and words (see what I did there?) mean so much to us.
They are how we express and record ourselves.
Shakespeare used them.
The Founding Fathers used them.
Gutenberg made using them easier.
The pen may be mightier than the sword.
Modern writers use them to outline their books.
We have to stop acting like there aren’t benefits to typing up words over physical writing. Despite the incredible effect that the pages of the past have had on us today, there is nothing wrong with ditching that style with only typing.
I can tell you myself that my writing production has gone up ever since I stopped handwriting every damn thing. The process took too long. I had to handwrite the original draft and then type that upon a document. Then I’d print out the papers and then edit them. The new edits would then have to be put into the revised document. I’d repeat this until I completed the document.
All, just because I wanted to use physical writing over digital. Because I felt wrong that the piece would be better if I physically wrote every word, it wasn’t. I ended up taking too much time on pieces that I should have finished because of some false idea I had on writing.
I want to also say that there are two examples that debunk the idea that those who write on laptops are not as creative as those who don’t. (I’d love to put myself in that group, but I am not that conceded)
If you view the classic typewriter as a precursor to the modern laptop, you can’t help but feel relieved by the common use of the device. One of the most prolific and best writers of all time, who helped make the modern novel, short story, and American wit, Mark Twain wrote on a typewriter. A writer, better than most, used the thing that many claims hurt a writer.
Then there is an even more obvious classic writer who used a typewriter frequently. Ernest Hemingway. They even name typewriters after the guy; that is how known he is with the writing device. He also influenced literature in a way that many others have not.
The list for the argument pro-typing is not as cultural but still worthy.
It makes writing easier. (for me)
Mark Twain did it.
Ernest Hemingway did it.
No matter what device they use, creative writers should be able to produce a great piece of writing. Let’s all stop knocking writers of today who use laptops and don’t handwrite their words cause that is not a fair argument to them. It is holding up the quill to a pedestal that a laptop can’t even reach.
If you want to handwrite every word you want, as if you are Shakespeare, then go right ahead, but don’t go around acting like those who prefer to type up every word are less writers than you. That is wrong to do.
Nothing here, but the regular stuff.
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About The Blogger
Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on pensandwords.com. His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.
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