On Valentine’s Day my wife got me a really nice pen. At one point I had mentioned I was interested in trying a fountain pen again. I recall that I said it a little half-heartedly, so I’m fortunate that she filed it away.
She bought me a Lamy Accentfountain pen and it changed my life.
Well that was pretty hyperbolic, wasn’t it?
But see this is the thing: I’ve always hated actual writing. I’ve hated my handwriting ever since my teachers started complaining about it, back in junior high. I’ve hated the doing of handwriting. It’s painful, my hand cramps up, and it’s always hard to read. But over the past 3 months I have discovered a real joy in writing and drawing with a physical pen.
I don’t know about you, but the message I always received was “your handwriting is permanent”. Once you learn cursive in third grade it’s set for life. Tough luck, kid. And if you have shitty cursive, well, the solutions are few: “Go slower”, I was told. Sometimes, “keep your pencil sharp!” or “try a finer point”. Frequently I was just told “Your handwriting is too sloppy, please make it neater.” As if I should know how to do that and I was deliberately being lazy.
It all sounded like, “Fix this thing that we previously told you is innate”. Or in other words, “something is wrong with you“.
And so my scrawly, scratchy style has remained unchanged for almost 30 years, until I decided to call bullshit on the permanency thing and teach myself to write better.
I’d like to take a minute to stop and thank my brother, Daniel, for sparking this interest. He had been telling me about his interest in fountain pens, writing, shorthand, and various scripts. Sent me links. He basically put the seed in my mind that I could actually fix my writing.
Anyway, I got this pen and, after following a link roughly on the Palmer method of writing, began doing these really ridiculous writing drills every single night. Not even letters, just strokes and circles, loops and curves. The point was to break habits of 1) gripping the pen too tightly, 2) only using my wrist to draw the letters, never the forearm, and 3) going too fast.
And then I got a Noodler’s Ahab, which is a flexible nib pen. Suddenly I was drawing again.
I used to draw a lot when I was younger. In fact, I used to love art classes all the way into High School. At some point I suppose I decided that drawing wasn’t a thing I do, or wasn’t mature, or I wasn’t good enough. So I stopped. I wish I hadn’t, though I do remember having the same issues with drawing as I used to have with writing: hand got cramped, tried to do things too quickly, etc.
So now every night I practice Spencerian handwriting and/or doodle in one of my many notebooks. It’s one of the most relaxing things I’ve ever done, and it feels like coming home to myself. I mean, not to get too hyperbolic about it, but I feel as if there’s this part of me that’s lain dormant for a couple decades, an untapped source, a hidden room filled with possibilities.
I’m not planning on quitting the day job or anything, but it does add a new perspective to how I view my opportunities for relaxation/occupation/education, etc.
And anyway, after all this, my handwriting is better and I like writing notes now. So I’ll always have that!