at the age of five, i was in grade one. i had graduated from the gardens of kinder and joined my older siblings in the mature world of number grades. i was learning to read, to perfect my ABCs and to tell time. the world was bringing on a whole new meaning and i was soaking it in. i certainly wasn’t the best pupil in the class and often faked coughing when i wasn’t sure of how to read a word, but i was progressing and that was clear.
at the age of seven, i had moved up to grade three. and i knew this was a defining stage in my life as equally important as joining the world of numbers two years prior. or maybe more so because grade three marked the point when i would learn cursive writing. whenever my mother wrote a note or signed a permission slip for me, i was always in awe of how her hand moved so elegantly on the page without ever lifting from the paper except to dot her Is and cross her Ts. now that i was in grade three, i too would learn the art of elegant penmanship and the ultimate sign of expression.
and i loved it. i had always had a knack for drawing and so learning how to write each letter, lower case by lower case, upper case by upper case, and then connecting them all together, felt like i had exited my cocoon and grown wings. it was so many things all at once: writing, thinking, calculating and most of all, it was beautiful.
jumping ahead to my first year of university, to follow lectures in a room full of 1200 other students required the art of quickwrite. i cursively spun bullets, sentences and – at least once a week due to too much horsing around and not enough rest – cursive drooping flatlines as my head and hand bopped up and down out of sleep. but armed with me the entire four years of my undergrad, as well as my masters to follow, was the parker pen my father had given to me as a high school graduation present. it was a tradition actually; we were all sent off to university with a suitcase of clothes, some notepaper and our very own parker pen. its power would guide us the rest of the way. and so it did (in some cases miraculously, i must admit).
my love for cursive writing is as strong today as it was when i was seven, even if i do cheat the odd time with a mix of printing and cursive when scribbling notes. whilst writing my masters thesis on the ethnological development of french writer, annie ernaux, part of my creative writing process was to first write each chapter down on paper. and the neater i wrote it, the better my ideas seemed to flow, that is to say, i was satisfied with them. once i was happy with my beautifully written art, i would then transcribe it to my computer so that i could print it out and give it to my adviser for review. and this is how i graduated with honours. i may have had the odd original idea in there too but i firmly believe that my mighty parker and its partner in crime, papyrus, led the way for me.
it’s been nearly ten years since i completed my masters. from there i flew over the atlantic and started my first job as a publications officer for an NGO in europe. and guess what, my creative cursive skills were no longer ‘required’. it’s not that i didn’t want them and didn’t need them, but imagine sitting down at your desk in your first job writing content and your boss sees you scribbling away on a notepad before typing it all out on the computer. if i wanted to keep my job, i simply couldn’t do it. therefore, i had to learn how to survive without parker and go directly to the keyboard and screen.
it was really hard; not just at first but for a long time. i had spent the previous seventeen years of my life figuring things out on pieces of paper. i even had a journal that i had kept up since i was nine to write down my thoughts and report on the news of the day. straight to the hard drive was way different and it took me a lot of time to get used to it. and oh, i had a lot to learn! backspace, enter and spell check were no longer good enough. in addition to having to write with the keyboard, i needed to learn how to do it efficiently. in other words: keyboard shortcuts. select all, copy/paste, undo/redo… a.k.a.: ctrl a, ctrl x/v, ctrl z/shift z.
a few years ago, i stopped writing in my journal. it was a conscious decision because i felt that over the course of time all i was writing were reports on the things that made me unhappy in life. i wrote very rarely and when i did, it was more a rhyming off of whatever was bothering me, chronologically event by event. by the time i was done with the “what happened” bit, i was exhausted and had no energy left to express how, whatever it was, affected me. more than a few times, i signed off with, “well, i’m tired, so going to bed.” i compare my writing at that time to a cop jotting down the elements of the scene of the crime but with not one hypothesis on what the possible cause might have been. and in my case, it certainly wasn’t going to ‘solve’ anything. on an even sadder note, about four years ago i lost parker while out one night at a bar with friends. once the sword of my writing, parker had become nothing more than a tool at the bottom of my purse for keeping phone numbers and making grocery lists. and so after all this, i decided that writing in my journal was no longer good for me and i gave it up altogether. in ‘real life’ i was a happy and positive person but on paper i was a negative writer. and with that, i thought i should instead focus on the positive – and, at least for now, to do so off paper.
lately, due to a massive helping of extra time on my hands, i’ve been thinking about writing again. and this is why i started writing a/this blog. i know, i know; for someone who grew up loving cursive writing by hand, why am i embarking on this new endeavor with the keyboard? the truth is, there are two reason. first, i don’t want to fall back into being a negative writer, only picking up my journal when something’s bothering me. second, and i think more of an issue, is that although i have not lost my love for cursive writing, i think i’ve lost my expressive side for it. and to be honest, i don’t think i can live without keyboard shortcuts. my creative writing has literally gone creative typing. i need to be able to copy/paste sentences here, throw them up there, select all the bad ones and hit delete. i don’t seem to be capable of figuring that out in my head from the start anymore. wow, i just realized that as i wrote it. and now i wonder: is this a bad thing? maybe, maybe not. i don’t know.
i told my fiance a few weeks ago that i’d started writing again. just jotting thoughts down on my computer, i said. yesterday was valentine’s day and as a gift, he offered me a very nice leather-bound journal. he thought that since i was starting to write again, and understood that so far it was on my computer, i might want to start a new paper journal when i was ready. and i love the journal. and i’m excited to write cursively in it. however, what i was reminded of very quickly was that i have lost the expressive side for it. so, if you can believe it, i am writing here (on my computer) and thinking of transcribing this later into my journal (yes, with a pen on paper) to see how it feels. amazing how a process that once got me through a masters degree has now gone 180 degrees. i’m actually considering transcribing from typed screen to written paper. am i perhaps being just a little too crazy about this?
overall, hopefully not. ten years ago you couldn’t have convinced me that i would today write more comfortably with a keyboard than with my trusty parker, so who knows what this next experimental process might bring. why not? the most important thing is that i am writing again. and not about the events of the day nor (just) the negative. and so far i’m having fun doing it. i don’t actually know if i have any great writing talent per say, but i genuinely enjoy doing it. i always have and so, for now, i’m simply happy to be back at it and up for experimenting with it. experimenting is what creative writing is all about after all… isn’t it? perhaps this is part of my own ethnological journey in writing.
so, let’s see what happens next – on paper and on screen.