Very hard. Since I was 21 years old I’ve been making a living through typing; for about 20 of those years, as a newspaper reporter, I mixed keyboarding with furious note-taking.
The cumulative effect manifests as numbness, tingling and hands that tire/hurt quickly when holding a pen.
Then there’s the fact that I’m in my sixth decade of life. No machine runs for 59 years without some maintenance issues.
So why not just type those notes? Because they were being sent to people whose opinions matter to me, and I wanted to express my thanks the way Miss Manners would. Of course, she has a staff for that sort of thing.
Determined to do this the right way, I tried – really tried – to shape the letters nicely and to avoid smudges and blots. Despite my best efforts the writing looked a bit scratchy and spidery.
To me, anyway, but maybe I’m too hard on myself. When I sign forms or hotel registries someone invariably says, “What nice handwriting!” Or asks, “Did you go to Catholic school?”
Cursive old and new
Nope, it was public school all the way. But in the third grade I had my great-aunt as a teacher and she knew how to whip a bunch of 8-year-olds into scripterly shape.
Just about every day she required us to do at least a page of ovals and push-pulls, which were supposed to encourage writing that would be at least legible if not actually beautiful.
While I think that good penmanship matters, I got out of the habit as a newspaper reporter. Legibility wasn’t important; speed and accuracy were what mattered.
Yet any other writer who got a glimpse of my scribbles would be amazed that they could be read by someone who wasn’t me. More than once I heard, “Wow, your notes are so neat.”
I always thought they looked sloppy.
Write hard, die free
Now that I’m older and sometimes want to personalize a note by using actual ink instead of a printing cartridge, I fear my writing still looks messy.
Not that it matters, probably. Cursive isn’t even being taught in some schools any longer. And these days people are so stunned to get any personalized mail that they probably wouldn’t think of criticizing.
Still, it was irritating to concentrate so hard on creating perfect penmanship and wind up instead with meh-letters. Also writer’s cramp.
Maybe it was cursive, not a comet, that killed the dinosaurs. I can see them now, trying to contort their giant, aching hooves around tiny pieces of bamboo filled with crushed berries; cramping and straining to form letters correctly on dried palm fronds. Dear Aunt Arctosaurus*, Thank you for the lovely sweater. I’ve been wearing it a lot as it’s been so cold lately. However, it’s a little big for me because food is getting harder to find. Mother says I’ll grow into it.
Readers: Do you still write in cursive? And does it make your hands hurt?
*Dino-geeks will see what I did there.