I am doing something unusual by starting this post at the keyboard, not by holding my pen. I don’t love only the idea of writing, I love the act of it, and writing shouldn’t be the same as typing every time it’s done.
People tell me I have beautiful handwriting, and I’m glad to hear that. But I had great role models for it — especially my father, whose handwriting was clear even on a chalkboard, and my oldest aunt. Aunt Fay taught elementary school, and her handwriting looked like it was straight from a penmanship book. (I remember Dad commenting on it as the Palmer Method.)
I had penmanship books at school in which to practice my writing. I suppose the very word”penmanship” would look too sexist to administrators now, whether they’ve read about the benefits of “cursive” writing or not. Penmanship just means the ability to handle a pen. Swordsmanship, though of course not as mighty, had its own word for ages, but I don’t run across it much (even when the subject is hockey sticks).
I still remember a day early in my museum career when a volunteer named Richard came to me with a question. I promised him I’d find the answer, but then remembered that he wouldn’t be there to get the answer until the next weekend.
Once I had the answer, I went to my locker (in effect, my desk) and got out a card from a box I kept there. I wrote the answer, wrote “Richard” on the envelope, and left it in the office where the volunteers checked in.
The next weekend, I met Richard again. He was nearly in tears — not because I’d had a bad answer for him, but because I’d written to him by hand. It had been years since he’d received a handwritten letter.
That was more than ten years ago, and letters are getting more rare. I offer the story to remind you that they will be seen as more precious now, too.
So whether you call it “handwriting” or “penmanship,” grab a pen and drop someone a real note — not the kind that can disappear at the bump of a delete key. It may be as forgettable as whatever my answer to Richard was… and it may have as memorable an impact.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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Filed under: Words Worth Defending