The Art of Handwriting

No one is born with their future written in stone; it took me years to find my own path.  Looking back I can see now what I couldn’t see then, that the tiniest inspiration, if you love it enough, can be the gateway to a future. For instance, don’t laugh, (and most of you probably already know) but I always got an A in handwriting.  At the time, no one got very excited about that (although, when I was around fifteen, my dad did take something I wrote to work to show his co-workers, something the daughter will never forget ), but really, how much more insignificant could an “achievement” be?  Would you ever imagine there could be a life in handwriting?  Me, either.

But yes, it can happen.  Which, by the way, means anything can happen! This is the top of my calendar page for March 2011. (Musica?  Oui!)  It’s a celebration of good old-fashioned letter writing.  I love my grandma’s old letters that all start with “Sue Darling;” my old boyfriend’s letters; all the letters from my best friend Diana when I left California to move to Martha’s Vineyard. Our letters flew back and forth and now they’re like little diaries.  They never get old; their details capture and hold on to a moment in time like almost nothing else.  Except for the photos, everything on that calendar page was either written or painted by hand. The old letter in the upper left was one written by a beau to Joe’s great, great grandmother in 1881.  On the right, is the front, inside, and back of a card I wrote to my grandmother when I was eight.  As you can see, I was so excited to get to the p.s., I almost forgot to sign my name first!  I’ve always been a P.S. Person!

Goodbye cursive? Get outta here!  They’ve been talking about taking cursive out of schools.  I saw this newspaper in a gas station while traveling last fall and practically cried before I ran to get the camera!  My sister says the school her eight-year-old twins go to is no longer teaching cursive!  Luckily my little nephews are amazing artists; they want to know how to do cursive and Shelly, my sister, teaches them.

Learning cursive was the first connection between my brain, a pencil, and whatever artistic talent I had; learning to move the pencil just so to draw letters, to make a little curl on an E, to bend the top of a T took the same sort of concentration and creative thought as drawing a flower or a house.  I don’t know if it happened that way for other artists — but what if it was the same thing for some of  the most talented artists, for example, like Monet, or DaVinci (who taught himself to write cursive backwards!), or John Singer Sargent?  What if it was???  No pencil, no connection = just maybe, no art. Children see the learning of handwriting the same way they see art, learning to form their letters is like learning to draw.  If you can make a letter, maybe you can make a rainbow. Not every child is going to be an artist, but what about the ones that would?

And for sure, two out of these three books could never have been written if it wasn’t for cursive.  Not to mention the Declaration of Independence, which wouldn’t have been half so interesting or informative if it had been written perfectly, on a computer, all mistakes and cross-outs deleted.

I have nothing against a printed book, love love love them in fact, but

♥     ♥      ♥     ♥     ♥

this kind of book makes me feel history more than any printed book could ever do.  Rachel (we met as pen pals and now we are dear friends for twenty years; go say hello if you have time!) sent me this old diary she found for sale in an antiquarian bookstore in England where she lives; she knew it would be my cup of tea, and she was so right!

This diary was written by a twelve-year-old British girl named Alice.  She writes about her lessons with “mademoiselle,” about her dog, about teatime and what she ate; and about how much she whistles, which is practically every night.  She really loves to whistle!  ”Dec. 4, 1906 Nothing special today, whistled in the evening.”  It’s a little treasure; she might have thought it was “nothing special” but it is to me.  I wonder what she was like as a grown woman?

♥          ♥          ♥ 

I would love to have known Margaret Cavendish!  And, just imagine, no this:

I have no doubt at all that Nancy Luce’s writings and little books were inspired by her simple everyday school life here on the island, learning to make her letters.  Despite her illness and loneliness, she still managed, through her handwriting (and her heart), to become the most famous person on Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1800′s.

This was part of my diary entry for January 19, 1978; the first time I broached the question of how “real” writing was done.  Sometimes people tell me they don’t want to use their handwriting in their scrapbooks and on recipe cards because they think it’s so bad.  Could it be any worse than this?  Would it really matter?  Wouldn’t a great, great, great grandchild love seeing any kind of handwriting at all, as long as it belonged to you? (Yes, they would, I know this for a fact.)

And you know what else?  Without cursive, here would be no more of these!! How terrible!  Kitchen scrapbooks, all gone!

So, I’ve decided to declare this day, March 10th, as “I Love Cursive Day” for all of us who do.  It’s too late for me to get this special day in my 2013 calendar, but it will definitely be there for 2014!  ”I Love Cursive, Write a Letter Day,” that’s what it should be!

♥            ♥            ♥

X O X O X O

60 Responses to The Art of Handwriting

  1. peg says:

    Cursive writing….how I labored with that in elementary school. My mom had me practicing ‘O’s and loopy ‘L’s….at the time, I just didn’t see the purpose or any progress for that matter. Fast forward to today and I so appreciate ‘handwriting’. I’ve kept all the letters sent to me at GS Camp from my grandmothers, aunt, mom & dad. All written with their own special flair. I think a rubber stamp is in order…..Long Live Cursive Writing….or, A Letter is Forever! What do you think, Sue??? xoxo peg

  2. Horst says:

    I am now 81 years old and learned cursive writing from day one in school. I am German born and we had exercise books with lines drawn to learn to kep the
    letters at the right height and dimensions.
    I loved writing and and is still with me today. Of course we used inkwells and nibs.
    Even in the 1930 the pens were ergonomically shaped i.e. bulbous at the bottom end.
    Today I still use the fountain pen. Nothing can beat it, the way it glides across the paper without effort.
    Letters are in decline which is tragic. When I think of the story of man and how much has been deducted from their correspondence.
    It will be difficult to trace their history for the lack of writing letters.
    You are so right that letters are forever.

  3. I too, will be so sad if they quit teaching cursive. I love looking at other people’s handwriting. I used to marvel at the way my dad signed his name on the papers I brought home from school back in the day when teachers had parents sign papers to show they had seen them. :) You could tell he took pride in his handwriting; his signature was graceful, yet strong.

  4. Kelly says:

    Not teaching cursive writing in schools makes me more than sad. I teach developmental math at university, and many students who have never learned cursive writing struggle so much with writing mathematical symbols and showing their work in general. I agree with you that cursive writing is like an art form and feel that it helps develop finely tuned hand-eye coordination. The brain also works differently when we are writing by hand versus typing. This is a crucial art form that shouldn’t be denied to anyone!

    • sbranch says:

      So right. When I write a letter by hand, or anything, it just has something different to it than when I type it. If I type something, I print it out and rewrite it in handwriting, so I can fix the coldness in the type! Strange but true.

  5. Ann Midkiff says:

    SBranch, I have forever been one of your strongest cheer leaders and I certainly back you on the cursive writing issue. I support it for all the reasons listed above and 6 million more! I have letters written by my great grandfather, who was a doctor in the Civil War. They were written to his wife and are so precious. The history our family would have missed without those letters! Please take up the cause____many will join you!

    • sbranch says:

      How lucky you are! What treasures! Thank you Ann! I do the best I can to keep the cursive issue alive, hand-writing my books being my biggest hint! :-)

  6. Lynda Anscombe says:

    Susan, I just love to write and always got “A’s” for my writing at school….I am with you to save and keep cursive writing alive. My granddaughter who is 7 keeps on about cursive and is proud to show me that she can join up the letters of her name. I will encourage her to write as I was taught to write many years ago. I too have a letter which I have kept from my granddad who lived in England. That letter is very precious to me as I never met him as I live in Canada. I do keep a diary and one day my grandchildren will be able to read them looking at my handwriting!!

    • sbranch says:

      That’s wonderful . . . and I love that your granddaughter is so interested — to them, handwriting is just like drawing birds! And they are so creative!

  7. Elaine says:

    Susan, There is something special about “love you can hold in your hand.” I keep all my special old letters and reread them from time to time–thus keeping their caring gifts alive in my heart. What treasures they are–and what historical reminders of past “good moments.” I do not want to even imagine a world without letters, cards, and all the small reminders that someone, somewhere valued us enough to brighten our day.

  8. Grace Fischer says:

    Susan,
    When I learned to write in cursive, the curves and loops were a life line between me and my teacher. Every improvement brought that sought after compliment from a lady who I thought made the world spin. As she wrote her name in cursive across the chalk board you would swear you could hear angels sing. So beautiful, so effortless and with such precision. I still find myself, at 45, practicing my signature and thinking of her.

  9. Sherry Palla says:

    Yes, Susan….handwriting is certainly an art! I love it! The little children in my Pre-school class are just early handwriters, and we practice every morning! xoxo Love that!

    • sbranch says:

      That makes a very sweet picture in my mind! Thanks Sherry!

      • Sherry Palla says:

        You are so welcome Susan…and I’m so happy you back home in your little cute home! Loved every blog about gardens in England too…soooo inspiring…even though I have 2 little gardens…I am blessed to have them!xoxo

    • Susan says:

      Hi Susan, I am a Kindergarten teacher who has always loved to write and print. I also see the wonderful art possibilities in every letter. When I print with my Kindergarten students, I’m filled with joy and tender amusement as the tongues stick out in concentration, and the little feet scramble under the desks: the braver ones start to make art with their letters round about April!

  10. Lizzie says:

    Love this post, because I love old-fashioned writing and letters and journals and recipes and love notes (paper sack, dry erase, chalkboard, fine stationery…). My girlfriend of 30 yrs and I have written back-and-forth all that time. Yesterday I got a nine-page letter in my mailbox, complete with her own stamped stationery. Darlingest!!! My very favorite pen is a MontBlanc vintage fountain pen. I lose it often and pray like crazy because I must not live without it. :) It just fits in my hand so sweetly. Anyhoo, my next antiquing spree will be for a small basket with lid, so that I can copy your picture above, and have some of my old letters on my huge desk, reminding me I am loved! Yay! Ciao

  11. Lizzie says:

    PS… Have you ever read this?
    amazon.com/The-Long-Letter-Elizabeth-Spurr/dp/0786812028

  12. Miriam from Finland says:

    Oh, Thank you for the declaration! It is finally time to get Cursive and Hand Writing lifted up from their humiliating state. I am going to mark the date down in my calendar right now!

  13. Miriam from Finland says:

    It’ll be Sunday… :-)

  14. Stacey says:

    We do still teach cursive in my school but it isn’t required that the students use it all the time. It is a shame that such beautiful writing seems to be going to the side.

  15. Stacy Schwab says:

    I say if you are going to teach cursive, make it fun. Read how we make cursive instruction fun at http://new-in-room-202.blogspot.com.

  16. Gert says:

    They “must” continue with hand writing, I was just thinking about this the other day! We will be reverting back in time…what would or wouldn’t their signature look like! Or would there even be a signature anymore! There will never be anything that can replace a hand written letter in the mail!!

    Blessings,
    Gert

  17. Sherrie says:

    I am a teacher, and I am horrified at the idea of not teaching cursive anymore. We are getting so far away from the basics that children need to know. I see the effects of his every day. (I teach high school.) All of those seemingly insignificant things that we learned in school – nursery rhymes, songs, tricks for learning multiplication tables, and cursive writing – have fallen by the wayside and it is taking its toll on our kids. I love seeing beautiful handwriting, like in Susan’s books. Hopefully, some teachers will teach it anyway. We teachers often teach what we believeshould be taught, not just what we are told should be taught. :)

  18. Judy in CA says:

    I have always loved handwriting — and mine used to be so pretty! But now I have a tremor that makes my handwriting look so awful, it breaks my heart. :(

  19. sandy says:

    I remember about 7th grade learning that some people wrote with a different handwriting than I had been taught–a cute back slant, very cute little circles to dot “i” with. Big fat puffy capital P’s. Oh what joy to try those! It was an artistic and individual expression. And to learn that I could create my own capital T, do a capital G like a small g only bigger. What freedom! What creativity! We not only write our minds, but the way we write expresses so much. I would hate to not have learned cursive handwriting! I can’t imagine adults promoting no handwriting!
    fyi, January 23 is National Handwriting Day, in honor of John Hancock’s birthday who was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Write on!!

  20. Alan Cleaver says:

    Delighted to have come across a fellow lover of handwriting. What a lovely page. You’ll be glad to know that in England handwriting is still taught in schools (for the moment!). But I fear the time will come soon when it will be dropped in favour of keyboarding. In my part of England (Cumbria) local agricultural shows include arts and crafts competitions which incorporates handwriting.

  21. Mary Ellen Dadds says:

    Handwriting certainly is more personal than a typed letter.
    Talking about cursive,i thought I would never learn to write quickly.
    It was slow going for me.

  22. Sandy H says:

    What a fun comment thread to read through. I am glad there are still people who believe handwriting is an art that holds value.

  23. Donna Hamilton (Jefferson, Arkansas) says:

    Today, in my local hometown newspaper, on the editorial page, is an article which goes along with the handwriting not being taught in schools. It is actually about what we as Americans are losing by going strictly with digital/electronic communication. Imagine that if only emails are sent between two friends or family members that with the simple push of a button, all of your correspondence can be deleted (erased, so to speak) or should a computer-glitch hit, you can lose everything–pictures, emails, etc. What is at stake is History, written history, because when the computer fails, or files are lost you have nothing–no record. There is a whole generation being educated now, that can not write in cursive, or read cursive writing of their forebears. Too sad to think that someday my grandchildren may not be able to read what I written in the margins of my Bible, or letters to their parents, etc.

    • sbranch says:

      I honestly don’t think that will ever happen. I don’t think we are going to become so non-human as to quit knowing how to read and write. It doesn’t matter what I think, but I feel more happy choosing to think that than the other thing!

  24. BridgetAnne says:

    I have always been in love with cursive writing. In grade school I was an A student except handwriting! My competition was Karen and of course she had beautiful penmanship. So clever me…..I could draw and so I drew my letters to compete. Thanks Karen and Darlyne for all the encouragement. I am happy for the upcoming cursive and letter writing day in 2014.
    I write to people and it does my heart and theirs good to give and receive them.

    • sbranch says:

      Good for you Bridget Anne — I’ve always thought letter-writing was a kind of art. Letters alone are good, pretty penmanship is the frosting on top!

  25. Adedara Marcus T says:

    Handwriting can have greater effect on Communication: Even in the age of technology, handwriting remains the primary tool of communication and knowledge assessment for students in the classroom.
    art of penmaship will impact on Career development: Greater writing speed ‘’ lessens the burden on working memory’’ enabling children and adults to ‘’ create good reader-friendly prose’’ Children who experience difficulty mastering this skill (handwriting) may avoid writing altogether and decide that they cannot write, leading to arrested writing development.handwriting makes a person become relevant to an organisation: Good handwriting is important long after graduation. It has been observed that employers of labour are usually prejudiced against illegible handwriting and the better handwriting turned out to be better writers and always got the job.

    • sbranch says:

      Also, forming those first letters are just the same to a child as drawing a kitty or a house with a sun behind it. To them, it’s art, the very first for some, and a possible gateway to the creative soul.

  26. Diane says:

    Handwriting has always been important to me I think because it was taught so early in my schooling. The most beautiful handwriting I’ve seen recently was an older gentleman’s signature. He signed his documents for a loan with such precise penmanship, I was amazed! It looked like something out of the 1800′s. It was beautiful. So hurray for cursive! It is an art! I hope they never stop teaching it.

  27. Paul Leacy says:

    Hello Susan,
    I came across your website as handwriting is a particular interest of mine. I am working on a project to revive interest in handwriting. I totally agree with the comments you have made regarding this. My plans are to set up writer’s circles and encourage people to display their handwritten words. I did set up a website, but what I am looking to do is to set up an offline community. If you are interested I can let you know how I get on. Very best regards
    Paul
    2 Western Avenue
    Polegate
    East Sussex
    BN26 6EP

  28. ritu says:

    What I worry about in hand writing is spelling words wrong.

  29. Cristina says:

    This is too funny! I picked a couple of blog posts from Susan’s archives to read on this last snowy afternoon of 2013. After thoroughly enjoying the mashed potatoes in the old silver bowl story of Thanksgiving from 2010 (see last entry of November 2010), the post I found next was this lovely one on the handwriting gift Susan has used to inspire many over the years (a gift which may have seemed rather insignificant at one point.) I see she chose a cover of the paper published in the small Midwest town I have lived in for the past 24 years to illustrate it: The Rockford Register Star! Some of these surprising moments of serendipity in life are just hard to explain! Now, I am curious who the Rockford resident who may have sent her this newspaper a couple of years ago is! :)

  30. Kaia says:

    I simply adore neat handwriting and I’m a sucker for practicing it.

  31. Chloe says:

    I love writing. Period. I have two diaries with so many memories i can’t help but read them again from time to time. Writing is my passion. I enjoy writing in cursive and print. Writing is a gift, I’m thankful God gave me such a beautiful gift. I pray I will use it for good. :)

    • sbranch says:

      How wonderful you are keeping diaries Chloe. When you get as old as me you will have the whole thing in writing. I have something like 22 diaries now … not counting my dinner party diary or my English diary. It’s a wonderful way to keep those memories . . . and at the same time, practice writing and observing. Have fun!

  32. Resa says:

    Wow, this is great stuff! Hi Susan, my name’s Resa from Queensland in Australia. I was just doing some research on the art of handwriting and I stumbled upon your website. We are so caught up in the world of technology these days that not many people actually hand write anything anymore. I work as a creative writer for radio and a journalist for a magazine and of course we use computers for everything, I noticed just last week how bad my handwriting has become. I’m taking it upon myself to research the art and use it more in my everyday life, I want to compare the different era’s and how our way of writing and talking has changed. Very interesting stuff!

    • sbranch says:

      Hi Resa, so nice to meet you! I think what’s most interesting is the pencil-in-hand bit for “first art” for children. Learning to write (draw) one’s name, curve the letters just so, space them right, is, to them, the same as learning to draw a tree. To not do that anymore may be cutting off an avenue to expression. Thanks for stopping by!

  33. Hope says:

    I am late on reading this post, but I can write in cursive backwards. It is not hard. I liked to practice writing when I was young and taught myself. I am left handed and I feel that it makes it easier. I only have told a few people because it isn’t normal. You get some raised eyebrows.

    • sbranch says:

      Well, it might make you feel better to know that Leonardo da Vinci was a genius and he could write backwards too. There is a book we carry in our web store called Thinking Like Leonardo da Vinci that I think you might enjoy. It’s “not hard” for YOU. Very interesting, my eyebrows are raised too, they are as impressed as the rest of me. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>