This week I agreed to be one of 100 people taking part in a journal-writing project aimed at celebrating the lives and interests of people in the City of Peterborough, where I live. Embracing the themes of creativity, exploration and reflection, these journals, once completed, will form an exhibition in the City Gallery at the end of 2014.
Naturally, I seized this opportunity for shameless self-promotion and the first thing to go in my journal was a printout of my book cover. I shall make sure my eBook, The Exile of Elindel, is well and truly plugged throughout the journal and I thank whatever gods may be for this chance to put it before the public gaze.
However, as I was adding some written text to accompany the image, I was appalled by the poor quality of my handwriting. There was my lovely book cover surrounded by a horrible scrawl; a precious jewel let down by its ugly pinchbeck setting.
Has my handwriting always been so bad?
My writing muscles have surely atrophied, my digits now programmed entirely for mouse and keyboard use. How laboured the act of writing is now; how slow and time-consuming it seems. If only I could copy and paste my thoughts onto the pristine, creamy paper instead of defacing it with scratchy scribblings.
What rankles most is that I used to enjoy the pleasure of penmanship, and now I hate it. Given my age, I did not expect to be so thoroughly seduced away from biro, fountain pen, notepad and foolscap, to languish instead, most willingly, in the magical word-processing world of Word. But I have been and I know there is no turning back.
Even so, as an author, I still complete my first drafts in longhand; it feels more organic. But my calligraphy is hieroglyphical, an abbreviated made-up shorthand all my own that is scarcely legible. It is something for private use and not to be unleashed upon the world. To produce a satisfying end result I need a keyboard, the only thing that can quickly and cleanly bring forth aesthetically pleasing pieces of text, and in any font I choose. I can italicise, underline, make bold and highlight at will, thanks to Word’s Aladdin’s cave of writerly delights.
Are the handwriting years behind me? It would seem so. At least as long as the electricity supply holds out.
Meanwhile, the rest of my journal is not going to be ruined by questionable quill-driving. I shall be copying and pasting my entries from Word and gluing the printed text to the blank pages. Come the exhibition, if anyone asks why I have done this, a quick glance at my first entry will tell them all they need to know.