I have some of the worst handwriting in the history of handwriting. It is a family curse. All my siblings (and my father. My mother writes beautifully) create equally atrocious letters. If word processing had never been invented, if I were forced to write everything by hand, it is highly likely I would not be a writer.

Elementary schools used to (maybe they still do) include handwriting in their grading system. My first D’s were earned in handwriting. I remember the teacher’s comment- “Sloppy work. If Ryan were to practice, take his time, his handwriting would improve.” Sorry, Mrs Lindsay, some of us are deficient in our fine motor skills (I’m not allowed near scissors), and all the slowness and patience in the world isn’t going to make things any better.

Still, there is something very appealing to me about handwritten texts (letters, poems, stories). I enjoy going through the stacks of letters sent to me by family and friends over the years, not only to relive old memories, re-discover forgotten moments, but to revel in the intimate connection something handwritten provides. Each smudged letter, crossed out word, is a connection to the moment of composition, a closeness to the expression of thought.

At various points in my life, I’ve kept handwritten journals. Some of these are day to day, what did I do, sorts of writings, while others are sketches- of emotions I’m dealing with, people I’ve encountered or characters I’ve created. I like the difficulty of handwriting, the struggle I have to write legibly. It focuses my efforts, narrows my scope. Sometimes, I don’t bother and just fly through a page, laughing at myself as the ends of words blur into unintelligible squiggles; sentences and paragraphs that barely qualify.

I’ve just spend the last two days reading a journal I wrote when I was between the ages of 19 and 21. Terrible spelling. Every event described was either the most important or most mundane of my existence. Certain phrases repeated themselves on almost every page. As I read, each entry made me guffaw at my strangeness, cringe at my hyperbole. Today, I plan to read a journal from my early years at the community college. I expect to have a similar response.

Every time I go through one of these readings, I am ready to commit myself to writing more often. I’ve managed a page a month for the last two years, but I want more. So much of life gets lost over time, altered or forgotten, and while a handwritten (or typed) account of an event is not free of bias or distortion, it is an honest attempt at telling.

Do any of you keep journals? If so, are they something typed, stored in a file, or are they written out longhand? Is your handwriting like mine?




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About Ryan Carty

There are some who call me, Tim?

8 responses to “Illegibly”

  1. Liesbet says :

    When I was a teacher in Belgium, my handwriting – on the chalk board and on paper – was very legible, clean and nice. Now, not having any practice and not wanting to devote the necessary time on it, my grocery lists are illegible as well. I also changed over from cursive to printed letters (the American way) years ago, because it seemed more readable. When my oma was still alive, I would sometimes send her a letter, but usually, the only handwritten things in my current life are birthday cards and post cards.

    I always liked to write with a fountain pen, that required cartridges of blue ink popped into it. I don’t even know whether those still exist. Shockingly, everything written in that fashion has faded over the years. It is all gone.

    Anyway, until about a year ago, I wrote all my diaries by hand – every day for almost 30 years now – but I changed to an app (called Day One) on my iPad on January 1st, 2016 (and I also changed from the Dutch language into English the same moment). The advantage: I will forever be able to read the text and I don’t need to store diary books anymore. The disadvantage: more screen time every evening after a day at the computer, and I write much more again, since I am not limiting myself to one page anymore. Minimum 20 minutes a day, including rereading it. How much time does that take in a year? Go for it, though. Such great memories and fun to read whenever we are retired, I’m sure. 🙂

    • fenster says :

      I find it much easier to read typed text, which makes me gravitate towards it, especially when it comes to books or news. Still, there is something wonderful about muddling through someones hand written words. It connects me to them (the words, the person who created them) in a way that typed words cannot accomplish. It is an old school mentality for sure, but things have a way of coming back around again. People crave the tangible, the human connection. Vinyl, real books, cassette tapes, objects…sigh.

      As for always being able to read them (journals), sure, as long as you have power and compatible software. 😉

  2. Donna Moon says :

    I have kept a journal consistently for 25 +/- years, always hand written. Eventually I transcribe my notes and keep a digital copy. Additionally, I sit down at a computer and write creatively for a minimum of an hour daily.

  3. jmh says :

    I used to keep journals, and the ones from my early twenties are pretty hilarious.

    I’ve fallen out of the habit in the last few years, but I should really pick it up again. This is going to be an exciting time in my life–makes sense to document it.

  4. Zeannaroux says :

    My handwriting tends to change with how much I care about what I am writing. If it is something I adore, I have decent handwriting. Difficult to read but nice looking. If it is something I hate, my handwriting turns into kanji, good luck trying to read it. If I am bored my handwriting will show it by having random doodles.

    It is ever changing and it makes me happy. I never know how things will turn out when I write. It shows me how I truly feel.

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