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Harrisonburg, Virginia, United States
Professor of Saxophone, James Madison University

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cursive is like jazz!

When I first started writing with my right hand (I'm lifelong lefty), the biggest challenge was figuring out how to hold the pen, and how to control the basic movements.  The results were totally illegible!  It took some slow and disciplined practice, writing individual letters on a grid.  The hardest work seemed to be making symmetrical curves and decent circles.

Daily practice has really paid off.  In a matter of weeks, my "wrong-handed" handwriting has become neater than my old writing.  It is slower, but slowing down has changed the way I think about writing.  I suspect that it is even changing the creative process.  I was thinking this morning about how different handwriting is from typing on a computer.  The writing itself becomes a creative process . . . an improvisation!  Things go wrong, letters come out unexpectedly, and the ink doesn't always flow the same way.  Lines appear thicker, or thinner.  All this is happening while a different part of the brain is controlling the content of the writing.  I'm starting to wonder if there are differences in that content, depending on which hand is being used.

Cursive capital letters have proved to be the most difficult for me, and I've even had some challenges figuring out what style of letters to use.  Capital F is particularly interesting, and I'm starting to find that the style of letter depends upon the context itself, and that the decision comes intuitively, in the moment.  Cursive is a lot like jazz!

This process has reminded me of two very important points.  First, you can teach yourself to do just about anything, provided that you are willing to put in the time.  The secondary takeaway is more of a reminder that processes that are slow and thoughtful tend to become more personal.  Computers are wonderful at making things fast and easy, but there is value to be found in doing things by hand, and that includes the ancient art of writing.

1 comment:

  1. Love your Cursive is Like Jazz piece. Reminds me of when I started writing drill for marching band. I started in college, where I had no access to a computer, let alone the quite expensive software available. So I did it the old fashioned way, by hand. I enjoyed the process quite a bit, as it combined my passion for music AND art. I continued on for several year until I got enough clients (and capital) to acquire a computer and the software. I had been advised by a very successful drill writer that using the software can, and will, dictate how you approach writing, as well as the end result. The learning curve was very steep, and I slowly adjusted over several years. But I did find that not only was I not completely satisfied with the results I was getting, but that I actually missed the process of writing by hand. Then I had a breakthrough. Thinking back to some of the techniques I used in hand writing, like using a light board to trace over the old set to write the next, I came up with the idea of putting a piece of plexiglass over my screen so that I could use a dry erase marker to HAND WRITE my drill again. I would then trace the shape with the mouse and adjust as needed. I found that not only was my drill a bit more organic in form and function, but I enjoyed the PROCESS much as I had when I first began. Sometimes the solution to our modern problems are old school answers.


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