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Handwriting Analysis—Barbara explores identity

Handwriting Analysis — Barbara explores identity

Today, I sit down at my desk all questions pinging back and forth in my head — what if, why, is that what really happened back then — so I’m writing in my speedy handwriting. I’m not strutting my thoughtfulness with curvy, slanted letters, but spitting out my words in straight up and down strokes that get the words down fast.

The curvy, slanted letters, my good girl writing, is the cursive I learned in school, and it takes time. I must scratch my Pilot fine-tip pen on paper slowly and precisely. My letters, words and sentences look neat-ish, too studied for me, like I’m writing in someone else’s voice.

My straight up and down letters that spill out of my pen when I’m pressed up against the wall for an idea, fighting to get something out of my head onto paper are a chubby, staccato printing and script hybrid mash-up. It gets the job done. It’s not pretty or classy. It’s the expedient, sometimes illegible, scrawl of a hand possessed by the need for speed.

My good girl cursive and staccato printing and script hybrid are both learned penmanship styles. I like the hybrid more than my good girl cursive. It reads better to me. I see and hear myself in the hodge-podge of penmanship strokes, the brutalism (in the architectural sense) of my writing. I learned it during my tenure in advertising, watching art directors blocking out headlines in a chunky scrawl, and I picked up my hybrid writing style. It comes more naturally to me than cursive and frees me to think about the words I’m writing rather than taking the time to form perfect, pretty slanted letters. In that speedy hybrid writing process, I’m free to be me and write more authentically. My handwriting is not an editor or a teacher, slowing me down, telling me to look at how I’m forming each letter and do it the way I learned in school.

Wendy, my first English pen pal, wrote straight up and down. I loved her un-American 60s school handwriting. Wendy’s writing was so mod, thought Beatle-maniac me. She was an art student. Her words jumped all over the gigantic sheets of paper she wrote on. Her letters to me, more infographics, amazed me — what style, what independence, what creativity, how perfectly they captured the moment and the fab Carnaby Street life I wanted to live.

Penmanship was important in my family. My mother won an award for penmanship. In the 1920s and 1930s, no one had typewriters, never mind computers, at home. Students were taught to write just like all the other students in their class, school, city, state, country because everyone needed to be able to read everyone else’s handwriting. Uniformity with the occasional swirly scribble of self-expression was the rule. I suspect writing that required so much focus, so much thought for each letter, might have also contributed to a level of civility in the writing and society. Could you scream, rant or curse on paper in cursive writing? I’m not sure, It slowed you down enough so you had time to think about what you were writing before you wrote it. That’s not the case with my staccato hybrid writing — all emotions unleashed from the niceties of cursive.

What happened to your handwriting?” my mother once asked when she saw me addressing Christmas cards. I looked at her like she was nuts. The last thing I was going to do, before I got an address label program for my Mac, was to slow down the process of addressing nearly two hundred cards.

My good girl cursive, my first handwriting mimicked what I saw others do, followed the formation of the letters in those posters that ran across the top of the blackboard in my school — the ones with upper and lower case alphabets and arrows indicating the direction your hand should move to create each letter. Now, my handwriting is the non-stop bump and flow of lines that hold together without my picking up the pen anywhere, except at the end of a sentence. I can read it easily. Can anyone else? I don’t know. I keyboard and print what I have to give others to read, and I choose a typeface that provides, to me at least, a clear path from one letter to the next. Type that doesn’t do that annoys me. I can’t imagine how it could be reproduced by hand.

I recently started a new journal and set off writing in my good girl cursive. I was set on being serious, sincere, thoughtful, a little bit flowery and dramatic like an Edwardian lady pressing flowers in a book and carefully inscribing a legend for each bloom. That didn’t last. I dropped the ballpoint, went to a Sharpie — to eliminate drag and take pressure off my hand — and just let my words rip. Are those words worth reading? I’m not sure. They might be more of a daily scrubbing of my psyche, getting words down on paper so they are no longer renting space in my head and I can get on with what’s next. But at least when I look at those words in my mash-up hybrid scrawl, I know they are mine.