Louise, from Chapter and Verse Reviews, on the benefits of handwriting.
We don’t use our hands, except for scrolling, and it’s becoming a health crisis.
According to Professor Kneebone (genuine name – no connection to Professor Legbone, despite what you might have heard), students no longer have the dexterity needed for surgery when they first arrive, and they have to work at it. I know how they feel – it usually takes me several attempts to get a sentence out with all the letters in the right order in each word. We don’t regularly sew, we don’t regularly do hobbies that require fine motor skills (unless we are the kind of insufferable hipsters who knit ostentatiously on the train), and the world of touch-screens is eroding the skills we need to be able to tell if we’re stitching an aorta or just jabbing a needle randomly into some unsuspecting patient’s knee.
This made me think about writing, and the way we write, and whether handwriting is also becoming a lost art. I love to handwrite, and I don’t make typos when I hadnwrite [sic], which is a big plus for my self-esteem. But it is a lot slower, and I never learned to hold a pen loosely, so after an hour or so of writing my finger joints are aching and seized up because I can’t seem to un-train myself from holding the pen insanely tight. I’ve always been self-conscious about my handwriting – I think it’s rather charming, but I have had very mixed (read: negative) reviews. People struggle to read it, and in one memorable exchange, when I’d heard the rumour about final university exam marks being docked for scripts written in ‘girly’ writing, I anxiously asked my tutor about it. My tutor said, ‘No need to worry. Girly writing is legible.” A sick burn, and one that has lasted through the ages.
Is handwriting a lost art? I spend a lot of time in classrooms watching students write, and has the standard changed? Yes. But they can write, I can read what they write, and they don’t have any problem getting it down. Skills are evolving. I have no doubt that people aren’t as good with their fine motor skills as they used to be when we mended things and wrote everything by hand and decorated model planes for fun because there was no Netflix yet, but I don’t think things are as dire as all that. We learn new skills for the digital age, and there’s always a chance to learn more, to practise.
But next time you’re handwriting something, give yourself a pat on the back. If you ever decided to train as a surgeon, you’d already have put the background work in. Your handwriting may one day safe a life!