Writing – The Suburban Times
Do you remember when you were first taught to write? With me it was signing the pictures I drew with wax crayons. I was three or four years old and my mother taught me to write my first name. I knew what it meant, but I didn’t care that the letter “N” just zigzagged in a specific direction. It was the only word I was able to write until I entered first grade. And my mom had insisted that I hold the pencil in a specific way – NOT like I wanted to grind something into the ground.
Don’t think that writing has become easy for me because I have made writing my livelihood. I fought the alphabet like an enemy. Why? Our teachers were to teach us reading and writing in a “holistic” way; we were taught whole words, not letters. I knew my first year reader by heart. I had a photographic memory. But I couldn’t read a single word that went out of context on a specific page. At one point my mom even got called because my teacher despaired of my ignorance. It took me a good chunk of my freshman year to figure out that words are made up of letters and that it’s easy to make up any word in its native alphabetical language (I can’t speak for other languages ) by simply placing letters in meaningful configurations. Once I got to this point, I became the most avid reader you can imagine. And reading invoked the process of writing, for I had been a storyteller before.
I think it was at the end of first grade that we learned to write with a fountain pen. Not the ones you dip into a small inkwell to pump ink into a small reservoir inside the pen. The ones with tiny cartridges. I guess I put too much pressure on my fountain pens because they were constantly cracking just above the metal nib. The first three fingers of my right hand were always blue, and I used an incredible number of fountain pens during my early years of school.
We were supposed to use fountain pens until high school. And only the color of blue. Red ink was reserved for teachers, green ink for the school principal; you always hoped that the green ink would only appear at the end of a school year on your certificate that guaranteed you had made the class and were cleared to move on to the next class. It wasn’t until the middle level of high school (the equivalent of American college) that we were allowed to use ballpoint pens and other ink colors as well. You bet the black, teal, and purple ink were huge favorites with us.
I remember I used my fountain pen to write my final in grade 13. I started using calligraphic nibs when I went to college. I never learned calligraphy, however. My master’s thesis had to be typed, and it was a painful process to do so even with an electronic typewriter. To this day, typing on a classic typewriter wreaks havoc in my ears and I end up with severe inner ear pain and severe headaches. This is probably one of the reasons why I have always preferred my fountain pen to a typewriter.
There were computers in the workplace and the very soft sound of computer keyboards. What a wonderful way to create texts, to be able to correct errors without ink and the like, to overwrite passages, even to have an automatic spell check that takes over and indicates what you might want to change! Of course, you can focus more on creativity if you don’t have to think about getting it right from the first moment. Write, THEN correct!
All of my novel manuscripts are typed on computers. But the very first draft of the plot, a diagram, is always handwritten with everything I put in my hands – a pencil, a ballpoint pen, my fountain pen. I make it a point to write my journal with my fountain pen. As well as all my personal letters. Or the personalized notes in my books. When I want to memorize something, I take notes with a pen.
Personal writing is very important to me. It’s not just a glimpse into a person’s character, it’s also something that can be very aesthetic. It’s a sign that someone was thinking what they wrote for a specific recipient; it is NOT a cut and paste which can be meaninglessly multiplied by hundreds if needed.
Handwritten letters that tell a story are keepers. At a certain time, when no one is learning cursive at school anymore, they could become real artefacts with mysterious messages that only specialists are able to decode. Think about all of our historical documents! And the handwritten papers that were passed on to your family. Losing the art of writing is losing our past.