I realized something yesterday. I had to write a cover note for some information I was giving someone. In years gone by, I would have reached for a pen and some paper, and I would have handwritten it. But, instead, I turned on my computer. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I wrote something out in long hand.
Think about it. Greeting cards have messages already printed on them. How often, if ever, do you buy a card that’s blank inside? And more and more often, people are using electronic greeting cards and invitations. We don’t even have to address an envelope or lick a stamp any more.
Personal letters have been replaced by email and Facebook status updates. And if we can say what we want to say in a 140 characters or less, we just tweet. Short and to the point. No fluff. Perfect, because we’re always in such a rush. So not only are we forgetting how to actually write with an instrument, we’re losing our social skills.
It’s getting to the point where we run out of things to say if we’re required to speak more than a sentence or two. Even a lot of business communications, which used to require a letter, are now handled with an email.
We bank online so we don’t have to make out deposit slips. I don’t think I write five cheques a year any more. So I don’t know about you, but my handwriting is suffering. It was never the best, but now I look at it and often can’t understand what I’ve written down. I’m out of practice. The only time I pull out a notepad is when I’m with a client. But when I get home and look at my notes, it takes forever to decipher them.
When I first started school, penmanship was one of our classes. I hated it because the teacher always gave me a hard time. My mother wrote backhand. I don’t know if the fact that she was left handed had anything to do with it. But I must have unconsciously copied her, because I wrote backhand. The teacher kept trying to force me to write forehand. It was awkward and uncomfortable and it gave me a lot of trouble. The more she insisted, the more illegible my handwriting became. Until my mother intervened and I was finally permitted to write the way it felt natural for me.
Do they teach kids to write any more? Will future generations know what pens and pencils are? For that matter, I wonder how many pens are sold these days. Remember when everyone wanted a Mont Blanc? When was the last time you saw someone pull one out of their pocket or handbag? Now we take our devices out.
Don’t you think it’s a shame? I do. There’s something lovely about seeing messages and notes and letters that are hand written. I love letters. I love writing them. And I love receiving them. I’ve written countless letters during my career; and I don’t just mean the usual stuff. During my time as a direct marketing copywriter, letters were a significant part of the work I did. Letters that introduced the readers to far away places, or new services, or different products. To books. And cars. Recipes. Medications. And anything and everything you can think of.
I’ve also written countless personal letters during my lifetime.
To my parents and friends, when I was in camp. Letters and postcards back home when I travelled. Letters to boyfriends. And if I may say, letters that are typed and come out of printers are just not romantic. I remember having personal stationery. It was so much fun to pick. It makes a statement about you. Whether you’re being serious or playful. Whether you want to appear sophisticated. Straight forward. Elegant. Classic. Feminine. Masculine. Fun loving. Outgoing. Formal. Or informal.
There’s also something wonderful about all the different styles of handwriting. Each one of us has a totally distinctive style. You can tell things about people from their handwriting. Like one’s choice of stationery, our handwriting can also describe our personalities. Whether we’re shy or gregarious. Like the limelight or are introspective. Whether or not we’re tense or uptight. Spontaneous or relaxed. Whether or not we’re creative.
And now it’s all being lost. To ‘progress’. Technology.
Well I think there’s a time and a place for everything. So I’m going to buy myself some stationery and maybe even a fountain pen. And my personal correspondence is going to look personal again. Expect to get handwritten notes from me in the future. Once I practice a bit, and get my penmanship groove back, you might even be able to understand what I’ve written.