Handwriting – Nature or Nurture?

keyboardMesmerized a moment, I watch my 10-year-old daughter as she carefully writes instructions to her father on how to take care of her rabbits while she is gone. She perfectly forms each letter in neatly uniform lines, asking me how to spell unknown words as she goes along. I’m always amazed at the exact neatness of her hand when I read over her homework, a note, a song or a story she’s written. At ten, her scroll is neater than mine has ever been or will be. Her handwriting  reminds me of my mother’s and sister’s teacher-perfect neat script.

I’m sure no one has ever (or rarely if so) pointed at a word or sentence they’ve written with a confused look of disdain on their faces and said, “What does that say?”  I on the other hand have heard those oft spoken words from teachers, my grandmother, mother and the like.  My brain, my thoughts, my ideas typically come fast and furious, and my hand with a pen in its grip can’t keep up.  The faster I write to keep up, the harder those words are to translate into meaningful prose for the untrained eyes and sometimes even my own. You see, unfortunately for me there are times my brow furrows in the same look of confusion as I concentrate on my script trying to decipher what I wrote only perhaps days before. Huh, I can’t read it either… Wracking my mind, though most times I can translate the cryptic writing into some form of English.

My handwriting resembles my father’s and paternal grandmother’s looping scrawl. No matter how hard I tried, how hard I concentrated, how much I practiced I could never train my letters to look like my mother’s or my sister’s. As a grade-schooler, a high-schooler and even into my college years, this mark of inadequacy both bothered and haunted me. The only “D” on my grade card I ever received was in third grade handwriting. In high school, the nun that taught me freshman English kept me after school one day to admonish me and tell me my handwriting was atrocious and that if it didn’t improve my career, my life would be going nowhere, it would limit me and hold me back. I sat stunned, holding back unshed tears. I knew my handwriting was bad, but would it really hold me back in life? In reaching my dreams?

My father, who is also in the messy handwriting club, tried to encourage me and help boast my self-esteem after my talk with Sister Neat Handwriting. He pointed out that Einstein’s handwriting was practically illegible and he’s considered a genius! He went on to name famous inventors, authors and many others whose lack of penmanship had not held them back (although maybe if they’d got a gold star in handwriting they’d have gone even further…who knows?). However, I’ve always strove to please others and the bad handwriting black mark on my so-called record was one I desperately wanted to erase. It wasn’t that I was lazy or didn’t try or didn’t care. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table, a pen posed in my hand above the lined paper of my composition book, writing my letters over and over and over. Hours and hours of practice made my handwriting legible when I wrote slowly enough, but never would it be called neat.

Luckily for me though, the age of keyboards, computers, and laptops appeared just as I began college. The advent of these beloved inventions rendered my bad-handwriting pointless and mute. I rarely have to write anything using the antiquated pen on paper. The typing class I took my sophomore year of high school is probably the best, most helpful class I’ve ever taken. My fingers fly over the keyboard, keeping pace with my thoughts and ideas turning them into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters and even a novel. And as read back over the pages that streamed through those fingers, I can read every word without question.

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