My hand writing used to be legible at Times New Roman 8 point font.
Yes, I saved a few pages and compared it.
For reference, the next time you open any word processing program, just change your favorite font, or specifically TNR, to 8 point. (At any point in my life, and I’m neither proud nor comfortable with this fact, the quexclamation, “Isn’t that exhausting?!” would apply.)
My print, at a time in my life, was as legible as what you’re reading right now. But, on an 8.5×11 piece of blank paper with approximately 1 cm margins around. I believe my record (…yes, I counted words too…) was approximately 1,200 words on one side of a page.
I wrote out my papers…even in graduate school, which was 1996 – 1998. At some point in that window, I purchased my first word-processing typewriter. It allowed me to type out one line at a time, then hit enter, after which time the motor would take over. It had correction tape, which usually worked but when it didn’t the situation was rage-facilitating…anyone who’s needed to deal with correction tape knows precisely about which I’m talking. It also had a bare bones dictionary that was useless for the vocabulary of a speech/language pathologist. Or most humans over the age of 3, for that matter. It certainly saved me physical energy…but that wasn’t fully to my satisfaction. So I still hand wrote most of what needed to be written.
I prefer having what I’m writing laid out fully in front of me. This is why Microsoft Word was such an amazing thing…but a thing I only used in the computer labs at the University of Pittsburgh, because I couldn’t afford a computer or Microsoft Office. So, it was Del Duca 8.0 font…through revisions and everything. Then, after I’d completed the final draft, I would hand write it one more time…THEN travel to a computing lab and type the thing into Word.
You might now be thinking, “What the fuck was wrong with you?”
Or even, “Yeah, that seems about right.”
In any case, this was my life in the late 1990’s.
To this moment, I feel a sense of greater creativity when I hand write. As if the physical labor inspires more and promotes a deeper dig to the places where word meets thought and emotion, thus communicating messages with greater clarity and depth. Right now, I’m typing into my laptop from a note book in which the first draft of what you’re reading was written. Fortunately, I can deal with subsequent drafts within Word because I can see everything as a whole even as I modify the bits and pieces.
When I hand write, I think a bit more about what I’m about to communicate so that I don’t need to redo, scratch that, try this, and whatnot. I usually get it right closer to the first time.
When I type, however, particularly if I have a load of things that desperately need to spill out as quickly as possible, I can dump everything and then move backwards to make sense of it all for you. And future me. (This is a critical point. There are multiple times I read back through words I committed to paper quickly and cannot figure out what the hell I was getting at. Also, it veers illegible because when I’m spilling a stream of consciousness I shift from printing to cursive. And upon the read back, I generally curse cursive.)
But think about this. Within 10 years of the final time I painstakingly printed a 5,000 word draft of a graduate paper, likely near 1999 (…party over, out of time…), technology had become so affordable, so compact, and so advanced that all of us could communicate on hand held devices with exceedingly greater computing power than even the most expensive PC available when Prince’s anthem became nostalgia. Currently, I have a touch screen lap top that weighs about as much as a smallish hard cover book and takes up no more space than two Sports Illustrated magazines stacked on top of each other.
But paper and pen. There’s something there, something nostalgic for certain…but also something magical. It may well be the placebo effect of said nostalgia, but even the magic of placebo is still magic.