How often do you sit down, hand-write someone a letter, put it in an envelope, paste a postage stamp on it, and put it in a mailbox?
Indeed, how often do you use handwriting for anything but jotting down notes or compiling the grocery list and to sign your name to a document?
Yesterday, I wrote up — on paper — a pretty lengthy list of items I needed in a few stores, and somehow lost it before I entered the first shop. I wished then that I had simply recorded the list on my smartphone notes app, and I will do so in the future because paper can be so elusive at times whereas my smartphone is always tucked away safely in my purse.
Not that humankind can say the paper chase is behind us yet. Even as more and more companies switch to Internet billing, I still find myself swamped by paper in the form of circulars and such, and I still find myself searching at times for some document or another — especially when it is time to file the annual income-tax reports.
But as paper loses its relevance for anything other than bathroom tissue, I wonder if handwriting will be considered only as an art, and schools will stop teaching children how to write by hand unless they take special art-handwriting classes. Will handwriting become an elective course?
Still, while I may lament the end of handwriting as we knew it, I am encouraged by the quality of writing — the expression of thoughts — I am seeing on the Internet in the form of blogs and such. There was a time many of us (in the newspaper business) worried that young people seemed to be graduating from universities with weak writing skills. But now it seems everybody has a blog, and the quality of writing has surged upward.
Indeed, I think Shakespeare would have approved. I bet he would have loved being able to write on a laptop.
There’s no doubt that computers have helped people become better writers. I remember writing short stories by hand, and how arduous it was to make revisions and corrections. It was easier doing it with a typewriter, but even then, revisions and corrections meant retyping whole sheets of paper.
But no such hangups with my laptop. I can compose a post like this one in, say, half an hour, hit the publish button and it is being read by people around the world seconds later. In days of old, it might have taken several hours to prepare this post, and an hour more to put it in an envelope, paste a stamp on it, and mail it to the local newspaper, hoping they might publish it in the Letters to the Editor section.
We’ve made great progress . . . but still, I feel we have lost something as fewer and fewer people take up a fountain pen to record their thoughts on paper, like we did when we were kids in elementary school.