Friday, November 15, 2013

Zen and the Art of Graphscribeology

Amongst the comments here, JW asked an interesting thing concerning the effort to improve my handwriting. Viz:

      "Do you find yourself slowing down and thinking more clearly, even just to match pace with your hands? What other effects has it had on you?"

Well, I'd like to say I'm now a more considered writer, thinking through what I'm writing before I commit it to paper. But, um, not yet. Truth is I'm still very much a schizophrenic graph- scribe-, um, handwriter; there's the writing style you get when I'm writing, and then there's the, ha-hum, "style" you get when I'm actually writing. For instance:

On the left is the "nice" writing; I feel like I'm actually making some progress with that now. Tweaking a few things to suit me better, notably some of the upper case, but on the whole it makes a pleasant page to my eye (even in that colour). And I think it's legible.

On the right is the second page of a first draft for this blog post (Whoops - spoilers!). The first page started out... better. But then you get into the flow of thoughts over the flow of your hand, and this ensues. A common problem. The goal is to reduce the gap between the two, and that means lots of practice with the "nice" writing.

Now that has had an unexpected benefit. The classic method to concentrate on how you're writing over what you're writing is, naturally enough, to write out someone else's words. Back in school we were set to copying out recipes, it being an all-girls' school with a curriculum that probably dated from the 1920s... With my own choice of text before me, I started out with poetry; but once I was word-perfect on The Jabberwocky, I felt in (urgent) need of prose. At the moment I'm scribing my way through Good Omens, which should keep me in unusual names and sufficiently amusing jokes to stave off boredom for a while.

I'm trying to spend forty-five minutes to an hour in the evening just writing it out, and I'm finding it's really rather relaxing. The cats and parrots are all abed, the household in general is pretty peaceful and dozing over the crossword, so I don't even need to plug myself into some headphones to be able to focus and get "in the zone". It's rather like sketching or doing watercolours, without needing any grasp of perspective; the formation of the letters becomes the only important thing. And the extra benefit? It's way better than a mug of Horlicks for winding down to go to sleep. Honestly, it is. Perhaps that's just me, but I find it terribly helpful in getting my brain to switch off and stop churning over this 'n' that as it is otherwise wont to do.

So, I'm slowly stacking up the Séyès ruled cahiers with all this practicing, and really by now the gap between legibility and composition ought to be smaller. Except I complicate things. Potential graphscribeologists, learn from my schoolgirl errors:

1. Settle on one pen. Do not introduce fifteen different pens into your arsenal, especially ones that are, by their nature, designed to make you write completely differently. F'rinstance, if you're not learning an italic hand, do not dig out your italic nib:

1(b). Also, do not get side-tracked by different inks, paper, filling systems, etc...

2. Stick with one style of handwriting (see above). Do not randomly make it start sloping backwards and think "Ooo, that's curlier. I might work on that." It Does Not Help.

(Ceased? Seized, dammit. Oh well, it was late...)

2.(b) Do not get side-tracked by how your handwriting is effected by different inks, paper, filling systems, nibs, or wondering if it's possible to have a pen from every pen-making country in the world and still be solvent (Did you know the Turks make fountain pens...?)

3. Basically, don't do it my way.

4. And Pelikan 4001 Violet is pink, whatever anyone says.

May the force be with you your nibs flow sufficiently damply and you ascenders and descenders remain at more or less the same angle throughout.

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