Follow our family's journey as we seek to nourish our souls with music and literature, good company, great cooking, time spent in nature, and always, the love of Christ especially through the sacraments of His Church.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The New Age of Handwriting

It's kind of amusing to think that the first half of my life I pretty much never used a keyboard. Even my senior thesis in college was mostly handwritten, until the final draft. (Yes, I'm that old. I feel sure that we were one of the last classes to be so technology-free, however.)

 (well, you get the idea...)

Twenty years later, I am just plain lazy when it comes to handwriting. It's so easy to dash out a keyboarded thought, back up, delete, cut-and-paste, voila! Neat, pretty thought all packaged up in a handsome font.

What's the difference between an ink-traced scrawl and perfectly arranged pixels on a screen? In my mind, permanence is one - it's disturbing to know that one click on "delete" can wipe out my thought process. Eeek. Conversely, it's exhilarating yet disturbing to know my that words are flying around the world, Lord knows where, deconstructed and then reassembled in the air around our heads. Like everything else, the speed and convenience are part of our lives now, and the ease of communicating with large groups at once is heady stuff. But since our thought process has become so rapid, we may not take time to truly work through the subtleties before crafting our thoughts into words. It seems hard to even find the time to sit and write, since our typing fingers are flying busily.

When I think about it, though, I do miss the tangible feeling of connecting brain to paper by way of a smooth blue pen. There was something lovely about seeing curling pages filled with closely-packed words, or even the crumpled drafts on the floor: a visible, material testament to the process. In my mind, it was vastly more creative, and the laborious process did encourage depth and subtlety.

Recently I landed in a part-time job outside of home, due to some really tough challenges our family has been facing. What are the odds... it's at a marketing company that produces millions of "handwritten" pieces of mail for businesses and organizations trying to deliver the personal touch. My job? Programming and babysitting dozens of machines that hold  nice blue pens and write envelopes and notes. They look pretty much like this:

You can't even imagine the huge market that exists for this little piece of technology. The overtime is unlimited due to the vast demand. Many of my co-workers are senior citizens who were formerly employed actually writing-by-hand for this company. Now, each one of them supervises an area that produces, in a few hours, many, many times the work she could once accomplish in a day. It's amazing, but it certainly has given me pause. Interesting, how much appreciated something "personal" has become. Something once so common is now a valuable commodity. 

Lately, I've noticed more bloggers and other notable consumers of keyboarding technology pondering these issues. This lovely post from Tania captures the concept so well. Many "script-o-philes" have  found ways to deliberately include the simple art of handwriting in their daily lives. Some focus on handwritten personal correspondence, simultaneously blessing someone else with an old-fashioned treat in the mailbox. Lauren has decided to write a letter a day in 2011!

Of course, much good has come from the ready use of keyboards. My life wouldn't be the same without one. I'm just going to make sure that I take some time to slow down and write something pretty, simple and heartfelt from time to time, and that my kids learn and practice cursive writing even though they like the speed and ease of the keyboard. For those who are intentionally slowing down, simplifying, and pulling back from the noise of life, what could be better soul food than time with pen and paper?