Hand Writing

Handwriting Improvisation

Sometimes concerns about handwriting present an obstacle to writing letters. Since the computer keyboard has become a predominant way for communication, you may have less comfort with pen and paper. Yet we all appreciate a written message from a loved one or friend. There is something revealed through a person’s hand that is individual and true to their identity. Holding a personally written letter in your hand makes a unique and special connection.

The goal of “Handwriting Improv” is to offer suggestions to make you feel better about your handwriting. That is why we named our session for the form of music that allows creative expression among seasoned musicians. If you think about the notes that form music, we can appreciate that the basics of the simplest song starts with notations to be played by any beginner. This is equivalent to the handwriting basics we learned as children. Carrying this thought forward, our writing changed with our experience in life. Whether used frequently or occasionally, our current writing became our improvised version of earlier lettering. It expresses who we have become. Letters are valued for this honesty of who we are.

Slow down! The most important way to improve any handwork is to slow ourselves down. Contrary to hurried notes jotted to remember names or directions, a slowed pace of writing complements the way ideas evolve into letters. Therefore, a letter reflects a gift of time to your intended reader. They know the message, and writing of it, took time. Instead of the many ways your time could be spent, your letter indicates a decision to focus your attention on the person who will receive it.

Warm up. Consider these suggestions to warm up your hand, as you think about what you want to write. Even the most seasoned handwriting can benefit from the attention to releasing tension, optimum posture, and selection of writing implement.

In Rosemary Sassoon’s 2006 handbook on handwriting, she proposes several key questions, including:

• Is my handwriting worse under pressure?

• Does it hurt to write?

• Is my writing so slow that I never get enough done, or so fast that it looks sloppy?

Answers to these questions, and other self-perceptions of one’s handwriting, may be aided with attention to the following suggestions. First, consider where you are writing. A writer’s posture is impacted by a writing surface at the right height, a chair to support an upright back without shoulder strain, and an arm supported by the table top so your elbow is kept at a 90 degree angle (like the recommended ergonomics for a computer keyboard). In addition, the paper should be positioned for access and light, with paper and light source to the left side for left-handers and right side for right hands. Some writers benefit from a paper (lined or unlined) below the writing sheet, to soften the surface. Experiment to find what works best for you. After setting up your writing environment, try the following warm up exercises before you write, and during your writing whenever you notice tension or discomfort.

• Raise and lower shoulders a few times to relax them.

• Extend your arms to your sides and alternate stretched and relaxed fingers.

• Take a couple of deep breaths

• Use a piece of scrap paper to draw some relaxing scribbles, like the following, continuing until your pen is skimming across the paper.

A second consideration is using a writing implement most comfortable and suited to your script. Pen options include varied writing points (e.g. ballpoint, fiber tips, gels) and varied widths (e.g. fine, medium, bold). Pen handles can be long, short, thin or thick, and these characteristics impact the comfort of the pen in your grip (your pen hold). In addition, some pens work better with smooth paper while others will work better when writing on paper with texture.

• Try out a variety of pen types to determine what works better for you.

Lastly, consider the reasons for writing with letters joined to each other. Cursive writing is encouraged if it can help you write faster (less time repositioning the pen), with less up and down hand motion, and to help with good visual spacing of your words. Sometimes it helps to think about what characteristics make written letters easy to read.

• All letters are a combination of ovals and parallel lines. Some ovals are closed (o, a); some are open (u, y). Some lines are straight (l, k) and some lines are curved (u, m).

• Some letters are higher than others (t, l, k) but all similar letters are the same height (a, c, e).

• Spacing between letters, words and lines aid in the reading of a page of handwritten script.

• Some letters join at the top and some letters join at the bottom.

Adjustments to lettering take time, so focus on any specific change just one letter at a time.