We’re used to technology growing up to eat its parents and that’s OK because new technology is always better. Right? We certainly don’t lament rotary phones, wind up car windows, or drive-in movies; yet there does still seem to be a place for film, vinyl and mail.
So I think it is with handwriting.
Cursive no longer a life skill
Why should every child learn to write cursive when it’s not a required job, or social skill?
One often repeated cursive handwriting benefit is that it stimulates more and different areas of the brain than typing. It’s clear that it does but so what? As objectors have pointed out, so does playing many video games.
Do people who write cursive have a better vocabulary, superior analytical skills etc. than people who type? Maybe, but we don’t really know.
So ruling cursive out of the common core, while pitiful, seems irreversible. But is there a place for cursive handwriting in the digital world?
I think there is and I’ll tell you why.
Writing in cursive benefits your spirit
There is an emotional mood altering benefit of writing in cursive that no other text input practice replicates, not touch typing, not hunting and pecking, not track padding, mousing, or dictating.
Cursive handwriting requires a type of concentration not necessary for other types of text input and is a form of meditation that helps focus your thoughts on the writing itself. Cursive hand writing for ten minutes or more can allow you to de-stress, become more peaceful and reflective, and even gain insights into problems.
Writing in cursive is clearly not about speed but about the quality of what comes out, and cursive handwriting is the only form of text input that can be done for its own sake.
But in a digital world that no longer teaches cursive, it’s unlikely cursive handwriting will survive in the mainstream. At least this would have been my prognosis before recent tech events.
Tablet technology and Apple Pencil is facilitating a cursive resurrection
Tablets want to be held like a book, and what do you want to do with a book? Read and write … yes handwrite. Not read and type or peck.
The moment you use a tablet, touching, not typing seems natural. Typing requires that you either peck at the onscreen keyboard—a distinctly inelegant and unsatisfying practice—or place the tablet down and get a physical keyboard, basically turning it into a laptop.
Until now, the experience of digital pens (like a stylus) for handwriting on a tablet has not been satisfying. There was too much lag and it just didn’t feel … ‘write’.
Tablets are simply handwriting friendly
Apple has mainly touted the drawing benefit of its new Pencil technology, but the text input application is obvious and I’m sure soon coming.
With a tablet (plus stylus) packing desktop class processing power, storage and memory we can expect a superior user experience for the simple reason that we can hold the tablet like a book in one hand and navigate (turn pages) and write with the other.
Transitioning from finger navigation to stylus input takes milliseconds with the turn of your wrist, and a deft natural shifting of the stylus from holding to writing position.
Imagine what this means to spreadsheet junkies. Move spreadsheet to specific cell with finger; select desired cell with same finger; begin using pen to enter formula or data. It takes milliseconds to go from cell selection to actually begin entering data because it’s accomplished with a slight shift of the stylus in your writing hand.
Compare that to moving right hand to mouse, finding and clicking on area, then moving right hand back to keyboard to begin typing; that takes more time and effort.
Anyone used to using a pen to read and edit a paper printout will get this benefit immediately.
The real reason to start writing again
But tech giants facilitating a handwriting resurgence is not enough for most to run out and by a Microsoft Surface or iPad Pro and Pencil. The real reason to start handwriting again is that it’s relaxing, de-stressing, artful and more personally expressive of who you are as a person/artist; and you can now do it on your tablet.
If cursive handwriting doesn’t return to the mainstream at least it won’t die and those of us who handwrite on our tablets can wield our digital pen as a badge of honour, an identifier of who we are, an artist bridging old technology with the new. Who knows maybe the new digital pens will become the symbol for writers the way a paintbrush is the symbol for painters.
And if you’ll never go digital, by all means go buy a nice fountain pen and journal.
Some other interesting articles on the handwriting and journaling.