Penmanship and Handwriting: A Link to My Past

My handwriting is deteriorating. Is this possible? I used to really like my own handwriting. I took great pride in it. It started long ago. If you’re a psychologist, maybe you can analyze this little factoid from my youth. Ready? 

I had the best handwriting in my entire Kindergarten and 1st Grade class. I have this distinct memory, vivid to this day, of walking around with my parents at an Open House and strolling through the room looking at the various things the teacher had hung on the wall. Jack-o-lanterns made from bits of tissue paper glued to a traceable pattern that made it look like carpet. Leaves ironed onto wax paper. But the moment I remember vividly happened while perusing the wall where examples of our handwriting hung. This was 1st Grade. Learning to print your letters was, and is, a big deal. I took great pride in crafting a four-sentence masterpiece about Halloween including my costume plan and favorite candy. 

Then it happened. A random Dad stopped to look at my essay (can 4-sentences be considered an “essay?) and he did not critique my costume choice or the story iteself. No. Instead he said, “Wow. Whose handwriting is this? It’s perfect.” 

He was standing in front of my writing. 

My Dad agreed, “you do have very good handwriting, Don.”

I beamed with pride. I felt like I should give a speech and thank my teacher, the fine people at Zaner-Bloser, my God, and more than anyone …my family and especially my Mom for leaving notes and making grocery lists, leaving them lying around, and inspiring me.

Then a classmate chimed in. It was Marie. She said, “Oh, yes, Donnie is the best writer in the class.”  She also said, “he always bumps my arm when I’m trying to write.” I can’t lie. She sat to my left in 2-person desks and I must’ve had a crush on her. That’s the only explanation for why, whenever we were practicing our letters, that I would thrust my left elbow into her right arm and make her scribble and have to erase. It’s a wonder we’re not married.

End scene.

That chance bit of praise over something I was proud of, it stuck with me. My printing was so good, I’ll admit, it looked fake. It was as perfect at the letter guide that hung over the chalkboard at the front of the room. It was better than my teacher’s printing. 

t-1859In 2nd Grade and into 3rd Grade, when we began learning cursive, I applied my same work ethic in making that the best in the class. I don’t remember another open house moment, but throughout my life, many people have complimented my handwriting (yes …this has actually happened countless times).

As the years passed, I modified my writing a bit. Sometimes I’d write in all capital letters. Sometimes uppercase and lowercase. Sometimes I’d write in cursive. Sometimes, when I took my time, I could still mimic the Zaner-Bloser writing guide, but mostly I would write fast, still neat even when taking notes or writing an answer to an essay question. 

The next prideful moment surrounding my writing came from my sister. Once, while I was in high-school (she’s four years younger than I am) she said, “Mom left us a note, but I don’t understand what she means.” I went to read the note. The note wasn’t written by my Mom. It was written by me. It revealed that I had about the exact same handwriting style as my Mom. I thought this was amazing. Could handwriting and penmanship be inherited? Like some forensic freak, I wasn’t able to let this go. Turns out my Mom’s handwriting was nearly identical to her brother Jerry’s. Two of her other brothers weren’t far off. I looked through a very old high-school yearbook and noticed her own mother’s (my grandmother’s) handwriting also looked like my handwriting.

Yet, my sister’s and brother’s printing and cursive weren’t even close. So how do you explain my cousin Scott having amazingly similar printing to me, my Mom, our grandmother, and his Dad (the aforementioned Jerry)?

Without any further research, I determined handwriting style can be inherited. Genetically. Similar to the ability to draw. I can’t explain it. It could actually be nature v. nurture, but there’s something there.


The point of all of this is lately, I’m just not proud of my printing, it is more difficult to do, and takes considerable concentration to make my cursive look perfect.  Why is my handwriting getting worse? Is it because my hands are tired and out of practice from typing on a keyboard or thumbing out responses on my phone? Or is it mental? If handwriting analysis is real, and my handwriting has changed, does it mean my mental state has changed? Have I forgotten how (an early sign of dementia)? Do I have a degenerative hand disorder and should I seek medical help?

Of course it’s because I don’t write, pen on paper, daily like everyone did prior to the ‘90s. I’m out of practice.

But what makes me most sad is that, for a time, having the same exact handwriting as my Mom, my Uncle, and my grandmother made me feel a connection. Made me feel like my handwriting was a small link to the past and maybe I could pass it down to my kids, and their kids.

Some people, late in life, start something. They learn guitar. They take a foreign language. They pick up a paintbrush and make art. 

I’m going to get back to my handwriting and my past. 

Seriously. Comment with your address and I’ll send you a handwritten note in perfect penmanship and with something funny or inspiring.

Talk Write soon,


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