Writing longhand

I have started making a conscious effort to write longhand daily. Thoughts flow with my ink. I think before I write the next word. I have no doubt that I write better when I write by hand. You actually see words come to live with flourishes of your pen. That makes me feel a sense of connection to my words that a glowing computer screen is unable to evoke in me.

To encourage myself to commit to writing by hand, I purchased my first fountain pen, a black Lamy AL-Star. It is a beautiful beginner’s fountain pen. I was tempted to go for a flashier colour but ended up with the limited edition black. Matt recommended the Lamy Safari but I found the plastic Safari to be slightly lighter than the aluminium AL-Star. Okay, maybe I was already lusting a fountain pen ever since Matt poisoned me by letting me fiddle with his collection of fountain pens. Just a tiny bit.

“I write description in longhand because that’s hardest for me and you’re closer to the paper when you work by hand, but I use the typewriter for dialogue because people speak like a typewriter works.”—Ernest Hemingway

I also started writing in cursive. My handwriting hardly won me any praise during my school days and I believe it has deteriorated since then. I hardly write on paper nowadays. So when I decided to start writing by hand, I also challenged myself to pick up cursive writing. My past experiences with cursive writing were the odd cursive lessons in school. Those felt more like an afterthought rather than proper penmanship classes. I printed out worksheets to practice with and diligently inked out the letters. I figured that all I need was to write repeatedly and I will get the hang of it. And I was right. Having grasped the basics, I moved on to studying how others write and learnt to appreciate the style and character in the variations of cursive handwritings.

Writing with a fountain pen is an interesting experience. The ink just flows. When you write with a ballpoint pen, you need to exert some pressure for the ball to roll and let ink flow. Rollerballs might require you to press less firmly but some friction is still needed. I find myself writing more expressively when using a fountain pen. I had to consciously avoid applying downward pressure. I made a conscious effort to write from the shoulder, but it soon felt so natural.

My daily hour of writing longhand has also spurred me to reflect on the day. Away from the distraction of the internet, I tend to write, pause, and think. And then continue writing with a clearer mind. When I write on my laptop, it is tempting to launch the browser and do some research. It is so much easier to Google instead of think.

“Writing on the page stays on the page, with its scribbles and rewrites and long arrows suggesting a sentence or paragraph be moved, and can be looked over and reconsidered. Writing on the screen is far more ephemeral—a sentence deleted can’t be reconsidered. Also, you know, the internet.”—Jon McGregor via The Guardian

Sometimes the key to writing well is to just keep writing. Ignore the grammatical or spelling mistakes and concentrate on putting my thoughts into words. There is a time for correction and it is not during writing. Writing longhand means going on to the next words and the next sentence. Typing on my laptop would make it easier and a lot more tempting to go back and correct my mistakes, or even rearrange sentences and add on to the previous paragraphs.