All right, so let’s start by a confession.
I am old.
I can remember sitting in my classroom and seeing those big flash cards displayed above the blackboard that showed a student the difference between a printed “A” and a cursive “A” and a printed “a” and a cursive “a”.
How many of you folks out there remember that sort of thing?
I remember how much I had to focus and concentrate on what I was writing. I remember when I figured out that if I tilted the paper just a little bit that I would automatically develop one of those cool slanted signatures that I had always admired.
Then, when I got a little older I began to let go of my cursive skills. It began as a side-effect of my warehouse work. Back then I had to sign an awful lot of tiny slips of yellow paper. I had to sign orders and invoices and packing slips and all manner of paperwork. As a result I forced myself to speed up my signature until it degenerated into something that looked a little like the seismic graph of the Great San Francisco Earthquake.
It never seemed to affect my writing that much, because even then all of my submissions were type written. I was mostly writing for small press magazines back then and all that it involved was me sending out submission after submission in big wonderful manilla envelopes, with SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) in long white business envelopes for the magazine’s reply.
I learned to print those SASE because I never did master the technique of feeding an envelope into my typewriter.
Oh yes, I remember typewriters too.
However, in 2004, I began to become more involved in actual books – first through the North American small press through the release of certain of my earlier books such as LONG HORN, BIG SHAGGY.
Then, in 2006 Nimbus released my first traditionally published book, HAUNTED HARBOURS, and folks started asking me to sign their copies and I felt somewhat ashamed of that chicken scratch signature that my hand had built. So I sat down with a stack of blank paper at the dining room table and practiced studiously, until I managed to come up with a signature that could actually be read.
I still am a bad hand-writer and I ought to practice it more often. The 21st century and the wonders of the keyboard steal from the time that might be spent working on my handwriting – and I wonder sometimes if that isn’t a loss.
You see – I have always felt that the ability to write cursively was an extension of the writer’s actual thoughts. I believe that to a certain extent the motor skills and hand-eye coordination that a good cursive hand demands does not improve the inner working gears of your brain.
Speaking for myself, I believe that anything that takes you a while to learn is most likely worthwhile learning. Learning is always an opportunity to develop your core muscles – and, metaphorically speaking, the brain is a muscle that NEEDS to be exercised regularly.
Not to mention those many times in life when a signature is still required – such as passports and certain business and bank applications. A signature is something that is personal and unique and to a certain extent completely individual.
Let me step out onto this shaky limb, with a bucksaw in one hand and a pint of heel-grease in the other and offer you this sweeping generalization.
A fine cursive signature can be what separates the drone from the creative artist.
I can readily replicate your typewritten signature. The clatter of my keyboard sounds exactly like any other keyboard – but my handwritten signature is fairly unique. It is a muscular signature – the handwriting of a man who must still mutter to himself “quick, quick, slow, slow” when he is attempting to fox trot. It is a heavy, pencil-snapping hand that speaks of years spent on loading docks and in factories. A man who was born in mud and rolls his eyes up towards heaven as he dreams in lighter-than-a-dove-gasp fabulist dream-song.
It is the hand of a man who can casually slap down a paragraph full of wonderful hoop-doodlery and make it look easy.
Still, I am an old fart and I do not need to stop and Google the terms “fox trot” or “eight track”. I also do not know and refuse to learn how to text. I do not own a cell phone, nor will I ever likely purchase one.
I will admit that I no longer hand write my manuscripts – although I did hand scribble my first attempt at a novel – five drafts of about three hundred pages each.
I have killed a lot of trees in my time.
So how many of you folks out there still know how to cursive write?
yours in storytelling,