My Beautiful Writing Has Vanished, Like Ink

- by Karen Tintori

My handwriting stinks — a development that still shocks me every time I put pen or pencil to paper to autograph a book, write a to-do list, or pay the few bills I still pay by check. Gone is the lovely penmanship, so much like my mother’s, that won me As throughout grade school.

I loved to write, and fondly remember the joy of learning to master a fountain pen in fifth grade — or was it fourth? That year, our school photo pose was student at desk, pen to paper, smile to the camera. Filling the Schaeffer pen with royal blue ink from the bottle in the well at the top right corner of my wooden school desk brought a joy akin to opening a fresh notebook. I still have a small callous on my right middle finger from gripping that thick fountain pen, though the bright blue ink stains that spidered across that bump faded about the time ballpoint pens came into vogue.

I thought writing — the physical act of moving a marking implement across paper — was akin to bicycle riding, a task you never forgot how to do. My mother’s handwriting improved with age, still beautiful until the day she died. My sister’s has never changed, my brother’s looks much as it did in college, but mine has gone straight downhill — and I believe it’s from lack of practice. Use it or lose it, and mine’s long gone.

These days, my correspondence is typed in email posts, and birthday and anniversary cards can be sent with the click of a mouse. Typing is more rapid than writing, and much more convenient, since I’m at the keyboard much of the day. Here, in my element, words and ideas flow more quickly from fingers to keys than they do from fingers to pen to paper. Besides, my desk is so cluttered with notes, and research, and books, and knick-knacks — where would I find room to position my left arm across the top of a fresh sheet of paper, holding it in place while I began writing with my right?

At one time, not ten or fifteen years back, I was so OC about my lovely handwriting that I’d sooner tear up a nearly finished note and start anew if I made a mistake rather than sully it by scratching anything out. Those days, thankfully, are over. I can comfortably live now with eradicated words and phrases on the page.

Yet, on those rare occasions when I do sit down to pen a note, or to write a long message inside a blank thank you note or greeting card, I still wonder whose writing is staring back at me from the page.

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