Happy Birthday, John Hancock

Here we go again. Todd’s going to write about handwriting. How long has it been since he last did that? A week? A month?

But I have a reason!

Is it a good one?

Of course. I wouldn’t dream of wasting your time. Exactly one week from today is John Hancock’s birthday. He of the bold and beautiful signature on the Declaration of Independence. And you know what that means? January 23, Hancock’s birthday, is National Handwriting Day.

Text me when it’s over. Or email me. Whichever.

Listen, I could tell you my own experience–how, as a writer, I can actually feel the difference in the quality and depth of what I write when I write by hand, as opposed to composing on the screen. But you might not believe me.

No. Probably not. I think teaching handwriting, especially cursive, is as antiquated as the Model T and hoop skirts. My handwriting has always been terrible, but what does it matter? Kids these days just use their phones. Even I mostly text or use a keyboard. And now there’s Siri and voice recognition.

I believe in progress. I love technology. But I don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater (to use an antiquated phrase). Handwriting and cursive yield many benefits, as noted here, here, here, here, and here. Maybe the nuns and schoolmarms of the late 19th and early 20th century didn’t realize it at the time, but teaching children how to write precisely and well did more than create a few generations of people who could compose beautiful-looking love letters and diary entries (and accounting ledgers and business letters and registration books and wedding invitations and international treaties and first drafts of famous novels). They were creating important connections between what was practical, what helped create oodles of neuro-pathways in the brain, what did wonders for fine-motor skills, and what helped make individuals unique. So before you throw out the bathwater, thinking that handwriting is dead in the era of keyboarding and touch screens, think about the baby — neuro-pathways, fine-motor skills, and generally being an awesome individual.

Eh, I see what you’re saying, but you’re not convincing me. I text. I type. You can’t read most signatures anyway.

I’m not giving up. Here are some handwriting activities from The Mailbox. I’m going to revisit this topic again, I’m sure. And I’m going to urge you to resist the constant speeding-up of life and ask you to sit down and hand-write a letter to yourself. Take your time. Sit comfortably, align pen and paper, and try to be neat. Then tell yourself not everything new is best. Not everything old is dead.

And when you’re done, put your John Hancock on it.

Good one.

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