I blogged a few weeks ago about how learning is an exercise in mindfulness. At the time, most of the learning I did was via reading. I consumed information through books; I didn’t do anything. I didn’t practice anything new. I often found my mind wandering as I read to learn, and it didn’t feel mindful at all.
Yesterday, as I began to enjoy my pens and inks again after taking them for granted for a while, and as I grimaced at my chicken-scratch handwriting, I decided I want to improve my penmanship. My fountain pens are pretty. My inks are pretty. I want my handwriting to be pretty, too.
I searched online for handwriting exercises. I searched via Google. I searched via Instagram. Most of the resources I found are worksheets for kids using New American or Zane-Bloser cursive, which I don’t find to be particularly attractive.
Eventually I found an app, Handwriting Secrets, that’s already taught me things I can do to improve my existing handwriting before looking at new ways to form letters. The key to nice handwriting is consistency: consistency not necessarily in the shapes of the letters, but in their height, width, and slant, and consistency in the size of the spaces between words (spaces should be the width of the letter n).
This gave me something to practice in my own writing. I’m terrible at it when I’m trying to neaten my handwriting while also getting thoughts on a page. My slants are all over the place, from upright to to-the-right, the width of my letters vary, and the spaces between my words are more like ww than n. It’s distracting to think about my handwriting while also capturing my thoughts, and I find it hard to do both at the same time. But what excites me is that I can practice in other ways and get to play with my pens and inks in the process. I can transcribe writing that’s already written. I can do handwriting drills. I can copy favorite quotes with fountain pens and flowy ink on thick ivory paper.
This practice is all-consuming when I’m doing it. It requires my full attention, in the present moment. I pay no attention to time. The only thoughts that run through my head are concentrated on the act of making shapes and trying to keep height, width, slant, and spacing consistent. And at the end, I have something pretty to look at, even if it’s nonsense shapes from handwriting drills.