Monday, March 23, 2009

02009 New Year's Resolutions #15 and #16: Write Nicely and Write Nicely

Horrible handwriting sample

My handwriting is terrible. I know this. I have known it for a very long time. IN FACT, I USUALLY WRITE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IN AN EFFORT TO INCREASE LEGIBILITY. But as anyone who knows about typography will happily tell you, legibility is actually increased by not using ALL CAPS. This is because with ALL CAPS the words tend not to have a very distinctive shape. Lowercase letters have tall parts and short parts and parts that dip below the baseline, which tends to give words distinctive shapes. I almost never use cursive. So rarely, in fact that it feels completely unnatural.

Here's my fifteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009:

I resolve to try to improve my handwriting.

I am increasingly impressed with decent handwriting. This is particularly true of lovely cursive. My mother's handwriting is terrific. And the lady who writes out the appointment cards at my doctor's office has really beautiful cursive. Beth's handwriting is vastly better than my own, and I am a bit jealous. So I'm going to try to improve my handwriting over the course of the next year. Beth tells me that this won't work. She thinks my handwriting is fixed, beyond my control. We shall see. I don't hold out much hope for success, but I choose to go into this with uncharacteristic optimism.


My sixteenth New Year's Resolution of 02009 is somewhat related, at least inasmuch as it will provide me with an opportunity to work on my handwriting:

I resolve to start writing letters again.

Long ago, I used to write letters. Pretty regularly, in fact. I wrote these great rambling things, sometimes 20 pages or more, to dear friends — to people who then meant the world to me and, frankly, all these years later, still do. Somewhere along the way, I simply stopped doing such. I miss it (and I have gotten a report from one such friend that she misses my letters, which is encouraging). Although the simple truth is that it's been so long that I'm not altogether sure what really went into a lot of those letters, so it's entirely possible that my new letters will be entirely different in both tone and content from what my old letters were. So what?!?

Honestly, given that we're all in such a rush and all so overburdened with "responsibilities" nowadays, isn't it the thought that counts? And what better expression of thought than taking/making the time to commit words to paper, with a specifically targeted audience of one (with no expectation/intention of having anyone else ever read those words, and with no capacity to cut-and-paste the contents to be repurposed into some other document), using a time-consuming and hand-cramping technique?

There's something very intimate and personal about sitting down and writing a letter longhand that is just not matched by typing an e-mail. I miss that. And while I greatly appreciate a good e-mail from an old friend, I do also miss receiving actual letters in the mail. I think sending letters tends to encourage getting letters. So while the blame is wholly mine for discontinuing my own writing of letters, I think it's also fair to say that I am somewhat to blame for the fact that somewhere along the line I also stopped receiving letters.

I'm going to try to break the cycle, at least a little. I'm not setting any real goals for myself. I don't necessarily intend to resume letter-writing correspondence with everyone who I used to write to. I'm not aiming to write, for example, twelve letters in the next twelve months. I'm just aiming to start.

If I manage two real letters in the next year [personal letters (not business), hand-written (not typed), on sheets of paper (not crammed into the confines of a birthday card or holiday card)], I believe that will be more than I have accomplished in the last several years combined. The last real letter I can recall writing was probably in 01998, to an old friend, who (as a result of that letter) figured out before I did that Beth and I should end up as more than just friends.

Note: Do not infer from my mentioning of "two real letters" that I intend to write two and call it a day. I don't. I really want to make letter writing a habit, as it once was. But I do at least have in mind my first two intended recipients. So I'm ready to get going. All I need now is the spark of inspiration, and some time to get rolling.


  1. This letter writing campaign is quite an undertaking. I say this because I rarely write more than a few words at a time with a pen or pencil. A few years ago I took a class at the university and had to take notes for 90 minutes. My hand and fingers were cramped. Thereafter, I always brought a laptop to class for notetaking.

    I used to enjoy receiving hand written notes from my grandfather on a regular basis. It is true that just receiving one in the mail can put a smile on ones face (almost regardless of the content). I hope we are one of the lucky recipients of one of these said letters.

  2. I'll be happy to add you to the list. I'm assuming this request is coming from the only family of four that I know in Austin. (Happy birthday to Jessie, if so!)

  3. I just came across this short article & thought you'd be interested in it.

    Love, your sister