Last week, I received a package in the mail. It was honestly one of THE most exciting packages I’ve ever received. And this is coming from a woman who has a Mystic Seer, and who unknowingly won an Elvira replica dagger in a contest a few weeks ago. So what was in this new package that topped the delivery of a Mystic Seer and an Elvira dagger?
PENS! No, you’re not missing something here. It’s just the pens and I could not be happier about them.
All through school, I was known for my penmanship. Even won awards for it. And despite the fact that I do a LOT of typing every single day, I’ve never lost my affection for putting pen to paper and really writing.
Despite the convenience and speed that computers allow, I still send handwritten letters and cards whenever I can. Why? Because it’s more personal. It’s more beautiful. It feels more natural. Even with all of its benefits, technology still seems foreign to me. Yes, I can type incredibly fast, and it’s nice to know that any mistakes can be erased with the single push of a button. But where’s the personality in that? A typed letter is completely generic. I know, what’s written is more important than how it’s written, but still, your handwriting says a lot about you. I mean, there are people out there who study handwriting for a living! The flourishes, the slant, the pressure you apply … all of these details help identify who YOU are.
Isn’t it nice when you get a card in the mail and at a single glance of the writing on the envelope you know exactly who it’s from? A Valentine from your sweetheart, a birthday card from your best friend. A girl can spot her boyfriend’s clean and neat penmanship from a mile away. And when she recognizes her left-handed best friend’s uniquely slanted script on a colourful envelope, there’s just something both comforting and exciting about that. A card or letter from someone special SHOULD be instantly recognizable, not lost in an endless sea of plain white business envelopes with typed labels, easily confused as junk mail or bills.
When I send a card to someone special, I want them to know that they’re special, and that they were worth my time and a little extra effort. I could honestly gush non-stop about my love of old-fashioned, handwritten letters. And pretty paper and envelopes and stationery sets and pens… I just adore everything about it.
I’m very particular when it comes to pens. Fine tip only. Black ink, NEVER blue. (Or if you’re very special to me, purple). A nice, smooth ballpoint, not smudgy gel.
Since high school, my everyday pen of choice has been the Pentel R.S.V.P. fine point in black. They’re inexpensive, write incredibly smooth, last a long time, and they were always available… until this spring when I realized I’d used my last one and went to buy more.
And there were none.
In fact, I couldn’t find ANY fine-tipped, ballpoint, black ink pens in this entire town. Not even one. Wow. I mean, the store shelves are FULL of pens, but NONE of them were what I wanted.
When I sent off the last sheet of my mom’s beautiful embossed pansy stationery paper last spring, I quickly discovered just how widespread this trend of moving away from actual writing is. I went from store to store, and no one even knew what a “stationery set” was.
I’m still without much in the way of pretty stationery, but I did give in finally and order my pens online. Sorry, I’m too cheap to pay shipping from Amazon, so I had to wait until there was something else I could add to my order to bump the total over the free shipping minimum. (It was a book, what else? Because the only thing better than pens is real books!)
Being an artist, I take even more pride in my handwriting than most do. But the art field is another area where I haven’t been able to embrace a lot of the technology that’s available. I have one of those fancy drawing tablets, a very nice gift from a friend, but … my brain craves the smooth, tactile feeling of a pencil gliding across paper. My hand rejects the feel of that cold, mechanical stylus and cries out, “Where is my wooden paint brush?? This isn’t right! Ick! Get it away!!”
I know, I could just learn and adapt. But what will happen when all the traditional artists are gone? When digital painting outright replaces oils and acrylics? There’s skill involved in mastering digital art, of course, but it’s not the same skill as working with a raw medium. Today’s art programs control everything for you: Pressure, blendability, colour, tonal values, and layers. If you make a mistake, you can undo it with a single click. With a second click, you can swap out one colour for another — something that could require completely starting over on a traditional painting. When you’re using actual paint, there is no “undo” button. Yes, of course, I WISH there was sometimes! So you’d think I’d embrace a new medium where edits are easy. But as with the handwriting, where is the personality if everything is controlled for you? If everything is always perfect? Where the brush strokes are a series of ones and zeroes instead of a reflection on how you were feeling that day?
You can tell so much about an artist just from the brush strokes on a painting. There is personality in our flaws, not our perfection. A painting isn’t supposed to be perfect. Handwriting isn’t supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be unique to every person. A reflection of some part of them.
There’s something wonderful about holding a card or letter that someone else wrote to you. To move your fingers over the words that they wrote, to feel the pressure of the pen, to see the lines that they created with their own hands. To know that they touched it, held it and put in the extra effort to make it as neat and error-free as possible for you. It creates a level of intimacy that you just can’t get from a sterile sheet of printed computer paper.
Do you know that they’ve actually stopped teaching handwriting to children in some schools? I’m serious, that’s actually happening in the world right now. I read an article just a few days ago that talked about how students are now being issued their own personal tablet for the year, and that “handing in” homework is a thing of the past. Even in school, they’re moving towards doing everything electronically. Forget books. Just go online.
This makes me angry. And sad. Very sad. I’m not against technology, but like anything else, you can over-use it. What happens when the power goes out, or the battery goes dead? What happens when no one is left who CAN write and CAN do basic math without a calculator? Who will make the calculator? I don’t know about you, but I can’t engineer a computer. I can’t program it. I don’t even understand how or why it works. All I can do is use it. And the irony is that the more dependent we make ourselves on technology, the fewer people there will be who can actually create the machines we’ll need to do the most basic things for us.
This isn’t right. There will always be a place for “basic” literacy skills — BECAUSE they’re basic! Reading, writing, math. We HAVE to keep teaching these to our children, because today, society is raising kids who are both lazy and stupid. And I do mean stupid. Children who can’t DO anything for themselves, who are totally and completely reliant on their devices — devices that they certainly couldn’t build for themselves. And THAT should scare the hell out of everyone.
Well, I’m not having any of it. I refuse to just go with the flow. Any future children of mine will be taught to read and write — and at an advanced level, not just enough to “get by”. They’ll be encouraged to take pride in how neatly they write, in how extensive their vocabulary is. And I’ll buy them an endless supply of books — real books! — paper, pens, pencils and paints. They’ll write out their math problems so they can SEE their work, and LEARN from their mistakes. And they’ll write stories — stories that can be read in the middle of a power outage. I’ll hang their artwork up on the wall, and it sure as hell won’t be printed off a computer.
The art of traditional painting will not die with me. Handwritten letters will not die with me. When I’m 90 years old, I’ll still be scribbling letters to my best friend, even if it’s illegible to everyone but me.
You see, I don’t want to be a boring carbon copy of everyone else. I don’t want to be that generic white envelope with the printed label and the typed letter inside. I want to be the red envelope with the flourished address — the one with a love letter written on a sheet of pretty embossed stationery inside. I want to be me. And I want other people to notice that I take pride in how I present myself to the world, not just today, but always.
I think it was best said in the Twilight Zone episode “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”: “Being like everybody … isn’t that the same as being nobody?”. And who wants to be a nobody?