© 2010 David Parker
My Internet has been down this week, so for the past two days I’ve been writing the old-fashioned way: with pen and paper. This practice has given way to lots of doodling and lists of words that don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another aside from the fact that they’re all in my notebook and they’re next to one another. So this first post (handwritten on September 13) is an ode to my handwriting, which is one of my favorite things about myself.
I used to write with my whole hand. All of my fingers squeezed around the tip of the pencil. Control. Concentration. Precision. My tongue sticking out of the corner of my mouth the way my grandaddy’s did when he was working on someone’s teeth. (He used to be able to work on patients with no anesthetic. He hypnotised them. No lie.) I remember distinctly the night when my parents insisted that I hold my writing instruments properly, correctly, the right way. I cried and practiced and cried and, gradually, unlearned.
Since then, I’ve had lots of handwriting mentors, such as Mrs. Jackson, my third grade teacher who taught me cursive. Whose handwriting was ugly and stiff and sterile—too perfect. Whose capital cursive Z mesmerized me. My dad, who spent Sunday mornings writing out his Sunday school lessons on a legal pad. Whose signature I copied. Whose R-e-e was one line. Whose lower-case D was a capital one only smaller. Then there was my real-life writing inspiration whom I met five years ago. Whose handwriting (a mess of loopy, swirly, swoopy madness) looks like poetry. Whose words are layered and not in lines. Whose words turn into pictures, images, shapes, hatchworks.
The practice of writing, the physical act of writing is something I have come to enjoy immensely. In grad school, I used to hand-write all of my papers before typing them. There have been articles published about me and my mad, mad love of hand-writing what most people type. While a blank screen taunts me, dares me to write, a blank page feels like a warm invitation to try to say something. I’m a sucker for the feel of my pen on the page, the look of my words unruly, messy, raw.And I love a paper trail—I like to be able to witness the unravelling of my ideas and the shaping of them. The act of sweeping those stray words up and depositing them into a stricter form is intoxicating. The imposition of order on chaos: the moment of insight.