The importance of handwriting

The thing I love about journals—and letters, postcards, thank you notes—is the handwriting. A blog or an email can be beautifully written, but it’s still missing that personal element. Typed words on a screen may contain wonderful truths, intimate details, but they still seem cold and distant. The words draw us in, but it’s the handwriting that makes us feel at home.

I do not like my handwriting. It’s sloppy and sometimes hard to read. It’s big and round and stuck somewhere in between printing and cursive. It even changes depending on the pen I’m using, the angle or position of the page, or my mood as I write. It’s unreliable and unattractive.

It stumbles across the pages of my journal, rolling this way and that. It packs itself untidily into the margins of my books, dribbles down the columns of grocery lists, and lurches onto the tabs of file folders. Everywhere I go, it spills itself out and lets those who follow know that I was there.

I wish that it were different. Sharper, smaller, smoother. That it looked more like I want to be and less like I am. But that’s not how these things work, is it? My handwriting is too honest for its own good. It reveals myself to the world even as I try to compose a prettier portrait with words. I see my mother there, in the loops of the “l” and the heavy belly of my “s”s. I see my tendency toward clutter in the cramped spaces between letters, the way entire words run together. My impatience peeks out through misplaced punctuation and the dots sitting not-quite-on-top of “I”s.

But, in spite of it all, this handwriting is mine.

I didn’t choose it. I didn’t go to a store and pick it out, didn’t order it from a catalog or a website. I didn’t have a say in it at all—it just is. And it is mine. It is me.

I put it down on the page, and it winks back at me in a goofy sort of way. I’ve grown used to it, that air of silliness, untidiness, childishness. It’s familiar, if not exactly comforting. We carry on together, my handwriting and me, because who else have we got but each other?

One day my children’s children will sit with my journals in their hands. They’ll thumb through the pages and try to decipher what I’ve scrawled out. My handwriting will be there with them, for them, though I am not. And it will tell them of me. It will show them the little truths I tried to hide in my writing, the quirks I couldn’t quite shake. It will give them a glimpse of me unfettered by my inner censor, unchained by my pride. It will be honest. It will be me.

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