The Art of Writing Longhand

The other day I sat down and pulled out one of the many notebooks I carry around with me at work.  Some of my students were shocked to see me taking the time to write down some thoughts I had flowing through my head.  I guess you could call it a journal, I just think of it as one of the various notebooks I use daily.  I actually have three different notebooks in my work bag.  One is a for personal thoughts and reflections, the other I use for ideas and planning for a book I am attempting to write, and the last is a mini notebook I have to carry when I am on the move.  I still really do not like the idea of using my iPhone note feature to take notes.  Sometimes I think it is just easier to write things out long hand.

There is Just Something Relaxing About Writing Longhand Sometimes

I am not sure how many people even take the time to write longhand any more with all of the technological advancements.  There has even been some talk about the value of teaching cursive in elementary schools.  I for one have no problem with scrapping cursive instruction; I was never good at it and my handwriting is terrible.  That does not mean I am a "bad" writer, it just means I have bad penmanship.  With all of the pressures of state and national testing, that time can be used for more important instruction (like actually teaching how to write, not text).

Penzu and LiveJournal are both online "journal" sites that let you keep a private journal (or share if you like).  I have read some journals belonging to friends on LiveJournal but have never tried either site myself.  In a way both Facebook and Twitter are online journals, with your writing shared with your friends or followers.  This blog and others like it are also examples of digital writing that are great tools for even casual writers!

Even with all of my digital toys I still enjoy writing longhand.  I frequently write to-do lists on paper even though I have "an ap for that" on my phone.  I look forward to writing down thoughts in my brown notebook and working on my future novel in my black notebook.  There is just something nice about putting pen to paper and not sitting at a keyboard.  I loved the idea of writing my "Bucket List" long hand in my notebook.  Just another reason I am a geek I guess (the more I write for this blog the more reasons I come across).

Any other writers out there that still enjoy putting pen to paper?  Would you ever think about writing a large document longhand?  What are your thoughts about scrapping the teaching of cursive to elementary students?  Is it still a skill we need to learn?  When was the last time your wrote a letter in cursive?  I am not sure I can even remember all of the letters!


  1. I don't know why they don't have manuscript adapters for P.C's. What I am talking about is, you would unplug the keyboard from your computer, then you would plug in the manuscript adapter and you could write e mails in manuscript. They already have it in stores when you sign for your credit card, why not have a larger version to write personal e- mails?

  2. What a good entry! Even though I type, like, 90 words per minute, I prefer to write in longhand too. In school, I’m sometimes the only person with a notebook instead of a laptop for taking notes. I always have a legal pad with me at work. My coworkers all use time management software, but I’ve stuck by a handwritten to-do list. Every day before I go home I write out the things I have to do the next day, and then all day long I get to enjoy writing a big X next to each one. It’s way more satisfying than checking a box on the computer.

    I also never leave home without a moleskine notebook. Whenever I start a new one, I write the date on the inside cover. When it’s full, I add that date too and put the notebook on my shelf. That way, if I ever look back over them, I’ll know when I was carrying them around. I’ve probably filled six or seven by now. They contain everything from grocery lists (I have an app for that, but I think I’ve only used it once. Handwritten is the way for me) to ideas for blog posts. I’ve written recipes, reminders, lecture notes, and snippets of conversations I’ve overheard on the subway. Things that happened during our wedding that I wrote down right after so I would never forget them. Letters. Fragments resembling journal entries for when I’m so upset or happy about something that I just have to write it all down immediately. Our itinerary for our honeymoon. Lists of goals and plans. I would never have typed any of these things out on a computer or, god forbid, a phone. Writing is both more convenient and more personal.

    I am 100% for teaching cursive. There are lots of times in life when you have to take notes or write something down, and a computer isn’t available. In a lecture or a meeting, you’re not going to get everything down if you have to take the time to block-print. Cursive is useful for writing quickly. Even if your penmanship is awful (my husband’s is practically unreadable to anyone but him) it’s still a really useful skill to have. I don’t think it’s something anyone enjoys learning, and almost as soon as the lessons are over everyone’s writing begins to individualize anyway (mine devolved into a weird mix of cursive and printing that drove my elementary school teachers nuts), but I don’t think that means that it’s not important to learn. If nothing else, before I was in second grade and learned cursive, I couldn’t read it at all. My parents write exclusively in cursive, and I couldn’t read a thing they wrote until I was seven years old.

    Re: remembering all the cursive letters, you are SO right. When that story about not teaching cursive anymore was first in the news, that night when I went into my neighborhood wine shop and found the staff all clustered around the front counter, trying to remember how to do all of the letters. As customers came by, they joined in too. Who in their right minds would ever see this and decide it looks like a Z? But who knows? Someday when that second grader who hates learning cursive is in college and needs to read original documents from the 1800s or something, I bet she'll be glad she learned how to read cursive.

    That’s so cool that you’re writing a book! What genre is it? How long have you been working on it?

    For some reason blogger isn't letting me post this from my wordpress account, so fingers crossed for my google account.


  3. Hey Meg,
    Comment came across just fine...sorry about my delay in response. Track season just keeps me so busy, I rarely have time to get online during the week. That's why my posts have been down since March :(. I love how you mention the Moleskine notebook you carry, that is my mini notebook I carry with me everywhere I go. I also use it to jot down notes while reading a book....or while in a boring meeting.

    I guess my anti cursive bias stems from how poor I was, and still am at it. I would always come home with I's on my elementary report card. My poor handwriting almost lead to my son Nate being named Newt when I poorly filled out the birth certificate application. Z was always a tough one.

    Not sure I would call it a book is a notebook with two different ideas. One is an attempt at non-fiction to really prepare new teachers for the public school system...the other, a fiction piece I'm enjoying a little more and hope to really get going on this summer. I've been writing in the old notebook for close to a year.

    My boo

  4. Is it being taught correctly? My Mum taught me her style of cursive before it was taught in school and I got told off for using it as one teacher says it was too flamboyant (loads of loops), he may well have had trouble reading it even though it looked pretty. I adjusted it and reduced my use of loops until it just looked slanted print, still attractive but easier to read. My daughter is struggling with this at age 5. I noticed that she does the tails or vertical lines before the circles or vice versa when she should be forming her letters and numbers another way. This was only spotted when I saw her trying to enter handwriting into her Nintendo DS. The DS would not recognise number 9 until she did the round and then the tail. If the basic formation of letters is not mastered in reception class (age 3-4 years) then a child will struggle with cursive writing and just produce illegible work. If cursive is compulsory then it should be taught correctly. There are many instances in cursive writing where it is better to not join certain letters to others, this is not being taught in my daughter's school.


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