In defence of handwriting

It’s National Handwriting Day, and in a sea of things like ‘national drinking straw day’ and ‘national buffet day’ (rest assured, I have nothing against drinking straws, and am partial to the odd buffet) I think national handwriting day is up there with the most important. 

In a world that feels excessively digital, I delight in picking up a pen and making marks on paper. There’s something utterly satisfying and cathartic about it, and for me, writing by hand is incredibly expressive. You are creating something visually beautiful, all those curves and flicks and splutters of ink, but the shapes you make contain everything from humour and inspiration through to profound truths, wisdom and imaginary landscapes! I love that concept - creatively, you’re getting an insight into the writers emotions. 

Lamplighter London workshop

Handwriting used to be the art form that everyone employed without thinking. Look back at the beautifully addressed letters of the early 20th Century, people wrote in copperplate as standard. Completely commonplace at the time, but in today’s world, something so rare and beautiful we collect and frame them! I am a nostalgic Taurus, but there's no denying the beauty and sentimentality of these envelopes and postcards, with the thought that the receiver could have been waiting months for the correspondence. 

Our studio work is based on making words beautiful, so I find it incredibly sad to think that in the last couple of years there have been endless debates about whether there is any point teaching cursive handwriting in schools any more - the argument being 'why not teach touch typing instead'?  Teach both I say - we need the balance, and there are people in my generation who don’t know how to address envelopes correctly - a real sign of the times; and ironically, we delight at the drop of a handwritten envelope through the letterbox. 

Mid envelope addressing in the Lamplighter London Studio

Mid envelope addressing in the Lamplighter London Studio

The demise of handwriting would be a loss to human expression, a move into the robotic world of the future. That may sound dramatic, but think about love letters. Would you rather receive one in beautiful handwriting, or in email format? However romantic the words, by missing that human touch it can look like a business email.  

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And from a purely practical perspective, there are various cognitive benefits - it trains you to develop your thoughts and put them in order, as you don’t have the ability to endlessly reshuffle words as you do on your screen. It is also known to improve hand/eye coordination, and involves more complex motor skills than typing, leading to increased brain development in children. An argument to keep teaching handwriting if ever I heard one.

So there you are, my love letter to the act of putting pen to paper… and long may it continue.

Lamplighter London Modern Calligraphy Studio

 

My top tips for developing a beautiful handwriting style:

  • Practice, practice, practice! Many a night I’ve sat in my living room, box set and candles on, writing and re-writing letter forms. It’s a lovely way to spend a winter’s evening - truly soothing for the soul
  • Use guidelines - these will give your letter forms more regular structures. You can even use them on final pieces, simply slide them underneath your paper to keep lines straight, no one will ever know!
  • Lastly, a tip taken from my new book Nib + Ink - "You need a little consistency with your letters to create your own style. Does your pen always go a certain way when you write a certain letter? Embrace it, and add that quirk into your whole alphabet - consistency in your letter forms allows you to play around with shapes and angles and the overall look of your writing."

Nib + Ink will be released on 10th March, but if you can't wait till then, keep watching our social channels for some peeks at the pages. And if for today only, keep an eye out for the handwritten details you encounter, it's a good game. 

Posted on January 23, 2016 .