Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I've been carrying a Moleskine journal with me more and more lately, a soft companion with no rules.  I clip a gel-writing pen to the cover, usually with some outlandishly-colored blood in its veins, and I sit in bars, coffee shops, bookstores (not for the faint of heart, that; staff may think you are writing in a book of theirs) and park benches, spilling the beans.  I sometimes get out my BlackBerry and take pictures of the evidence, and put it on Foursquare for geographic reference or on Facebook with a fat cookie or cake piece to get comments...and I do get comments.  For the sweets.

Rarely do I get compliments on Facebook for my writing.  I'm starting to wonder if it's because I write in cursive, and if the friends who follow me on Facebook can read something that isn't a downloadable font.

I'm a minority in the pictures of this subject.  I'm also a minority in my writing groups.  Often in a group of three to fifteen people I am the only one going analog.  I adore analog.  I'm truly myself with analog, free to stumble, run, swim or fly over the pages.

Sometimes, though, the pages represent time wasted eternal to an outsider.  "You go to so many writing group meetings," say non-writing friends, and even some fellow members.  "Is your bedroom overflowing with filled journals?"  No, but more because I am a slow writer, a careful writer, even in private.  I got my very deliberate cursive from a strict teacher in the sixth grade, who told me my handwriting was awful (it was legible), and that if I made a concentrated effort to improve it, then I would be accepted into her special class for something called Calligraphy, where I could dip a pen in ink and create fancy letters like the ancients.  Few kids bit at this bribe, but I was lonely enough then to bite at anything...sort of like I am lonely enough now to bite at any social networking site or technology just to find companionship.  With the calligraphy class I learned to change my handwriting (my fifth-grade handwriting and my seventh-grade handwriting look like two different people--I'm lucky I didn't have to sign things at that age), and grip the pen with such worry that two things happen when I write:

  • You can't take my pen from me--the hand will come along for the ride;
  • I cramp up about a page in and can no longer feel my middle finger at the tip.
I have been told to loosen up by other teachers, physiological medical professionals, even psychiatrists.  I've tried, but then the distinctive art is lost.  I would rather be in pain and combative when it comes to my writing than relax and lose the picture.

Occasionally, someone will shock me and be on my side.  I'm used to my handwriting, so the shock comes from seeing the beauty again from the outside.  There's a cafe in North Beach in San Francisco that has fallen in love, collectively, with my pages--I have been known to get free drinks with my letters.  I've written for charity without a laptop, contributing by the page, for the penmanship.  And occasionally someone in the writing group will see me prepare for the session and their jaw will drop on the table.  "That paper is unlined," they'll say, and point, as though I just hurled a submarine pitch and the ump called it fair.  "How come you can do that and the paper is UNLINED?"  Because I'm a freak, I think, but just smile to the inquisitor.  My control issues work FOR me in this department.

This afternoon I was skimming my news feed through Twitter and found this, tucked in amongst the baseball stats, Kindle Fire announcements, and publication pointers.  My favorite journal manufacturer is sponsoring a project to collect something that may be a lost art in just a few generations, and that art is HANDWRITING?  You mean at some point someone is going to need a comparable Rosetta Stone to decipher me?  You mean that I, the least hip person and probably not one of the smartest people on the face of the planet, is using something akin to Navajo spy messages or passing down an oral tradition in recipe?  

Or code?

And all of the apathy toward my life from outsiders, all of the things I'm not smart enough to see and all of the things I have to keep up with to be published and "liked," were washed away.  I have a gift.  I have the writing equivalent of the knuckleball, long lost to pitchers because they can't maintain control of it.  I can maintain control of it, in the knot between my fingernail and my hand.  I have the ball at the seams, and I send the curves flying, so slowly that the page thinks it can be hit out of the park, still swinging at something lost in the tomorrows.  Suddenly, I feel relevant, and...surprisingly precious to an unsuspecting world.

Write on...a lost art.

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