Making your mark

by The Book Consultancy on May 25, 2015

As many—if not all—of us know, the WWI 100th anniversary is this year. As a young American, I can accurately say I don’t understand the pain and suffering that happened at that time, but I can still appreciate the people who helped shape the world afterwards no matter what side of the trenches they were on. Recently, there was an article about some WWI letters uncovered in a dusty attic in Hampshire, UK. These letters were from a young man named Frederick Key written to his fiancé, Zen Hall. Unfortunately, he never made it home, but because of his diligence (42 letters and 15 postcards written) he is remembered and even honoured.

This got me thinking, what am I leaving behind? I remembered a recent blog put up about bit rot and how data gradually dissolves and that focused mainly on the digital aspect of our lives. So, is there a physical aspect anymore? Do people actually write letters? I’ve heard that some people don’t even recognise others handwriting anymore, or have never seen it even though they’ve worked with a person for years. Everything is through emails and there is no excited anticipation of waiting for the mailman to come; no soothing recognition of hearing the letter opener slice through the paper, only memories for those of us who have had the pleasure. Has our penmanship turned from those lined papers in class to Times New Roman?

As a writer, I love words. I love the way they read as I write them onto a page and even enjoy the frustration of snapping my fingers as the right word eludes me and I try to retrieve it from the air. I even love the basic, physicality of writing: picking out the perfect notebook, the perfect pen and having to find the perfect sitting position in the perfect corner. But I digress—and getting a bit too poetic for my usual taste buds. All of these things can still be done with a computer so while the basic art of writing is not lost, the beauty of it may have wavered.

I’m sure this has not been lost on any of you, but cursive writing in America has been slowly getting cut out of school curriculums. Not all the States have come to this conclusion and have even mandated that cursive be taught in schools, but there are specific reports emphasizing the modern world. An article by April Brown says, “With young thumbs furiously pounding our abbreviated words and internet slang while texting with fingers flying across keyboards writing emails, the act of taking a pen and carefully crafting notes and letters is occurring less frequently.” “Less frequently” is a better-sounding phrase than “not at all,” but the fear is still evident. Will we have handwriting anymore? Drastic, yes, but with “an appalling number of high school students transitioning to college [who] don’t have a signature” when it comes to doing the basic things in life like opening a bank account, it’s a scary reality.

So, what do we do? Teach cursive lessons from carpets on the street, or start giving out awards for the people with the best handwriting?

I write letters. I write them to my family and friends back in America and I even take the time to write a short story to my young Goddaughter so she can both appreciate reading writing by hand as well as be excited to do it herself. I get letters from her sometimes with her scribbles and I smile, excited to see what those wavy lines will turn into someday. I still enjoy geeking out over pens in the store or taking more than five minutes to decide on a writing notebook. I even own a quill, though it sits on my desk back over the pond. I’m sure it’ll make its way over someday.

Few things can replace the art of slapping ink on paper. Whether it be getting me out of writer’s block or telling my future self past emotions in a journal, it’s a skill I cherish and I hope others do as well. So, write a letter and send it to someone you love. Who knows, it might end up in an attic and found years later under layers of dust. But, still, it’ll be you, your penmanship, your words, and your signature.

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