Handwriting Hangups

Sometimes people are surprised I called the business ‘Better Handwritten’ and not ‘Better Handwriting’.

It might not seem that important but there’s a reason. It’s because our work is about so much more than the outcome of neater handwriting. Clients do get that, but they get so much more than that. 

I see them start to relax and enjoy the experience; they begin to write more and discover that some things really are ‘better handwritten’. It was as if their feelings about handwriting had combined to form an invisible forcefield of resistance, a barrier that denied them access to the incredible tool that writing by hand is – supporting memory, personal connection and self-expression. Together we disable that forcefield so they can begin to enjoy the freedom that writing brings.

I see confidence, pride and pleasure grow. 

And I often see the deeper ripple effects as they start to reflect on their handwriting story. They begin to pay close attention and unpick how their writing has evolved – how it’s woven into their history and is part of them.

I’ll let Trish explain what I mean:

HANDWRITING HANGUPS – Trish’s Story

I wanted to share this story with you all after having a call with Nicky and taking time to do my handwriting exercises (still on it).

It’s a little bit about my handwriting story (well at least on the surface it is). 

Actually it goes deeper than that – although at the time I didn’t realise how deep.

It was the early 1970’s and I was a little girl, living in East Belfast at the height of ‘The Troubles’. Those of you who don’t know what that means may need to Google it.

Suffice to say it was a very turbulent and violent time in Northern Ireland. Bombings and other terrorist attrocities were committed on an almost weekly if not daily basis. It’s hard to think that this was the UK. 

Things were so bad, and so uncertain that my parents took the decision to send me and the youngest of my ‘big’ brothers (I have 4), over to the mainland to live in Liverpool with my aunt Margaret. 

It was traumatic in a number of ways (but I’ll share those parts another time).

Back to the handwriting.

Me and John, were enrolled in local schools. John at the high school and me at Bedford Road Primary School. 

New ‘friends’. New teachers. New school. New home. New ‘mum and dad’. New accents. Everything new. 

No phone calls or internet. We did letters and the occasional phone call to one of our neighbours who had a telephone.

Going into my new school was petrifying. Mrs Radcliffe (my new teacher – I’ll never forget her), did her best to settle me in, but I remember being very afraid and overwhelmed. 

My thick Belfast accent was a source of great mirth, and I did my very best to keep quiet and not be heard, although later in life I’d make up for that!

Writing practice consisted of using a pen (where ‘at home’ I’d always used a pencil). I found it alien and hard to grip. It skipped across the page and left big blobs everywhere. 

I hated it.

Lined jotters (yes that’s what we called them in those days), were provided and we would spend time each day writing. 

I can remember diligently writing out what was on the board. 

Simple A, B, C’s and short sentences which would then be handed in for marking.

Then the shame. 

My handwriting was torn apart for being too small. Scrawly. Untidy. 

I didn’t know that the rules were I was to use 2 lines of the page to create my letters. The bottom was for lower case and the top for capital letters. 

As a result of not knowing the rules, my handwriting appeared tiny and crammed into a small space (just how I felt at the time).

I was humiliated. 

I was the class ‘dunce.’ 

Everyone was talking, laughing and pointing at the new girl with the funny voice who didn’t belong and didn’t have any friends. 

Even now I can cry at how that little girl didn’t know what was really going on in the world or why. When she tried to fit in, she just didn’t.

So I learned how to play the rules. 

I used two lines of the page to form the letters. To create the words. 

I learned how to hold the horrible biro that leaked and streaked and made the page look like it was crying – because I was crying inside as I did it.

But I survived. 

I hated it. 

Every. Shitty. Moment.

I stayed quiet. I complied. 

So when the time came to go back home, I couldn’t wait to get away. 

Somewhere that was equally scary, but that at least I knew my place. 

Where I belonged. 

I went back to my old school. My old friends. My old teachers. My old home.

And a big surprise awaited me.

Something I didn’t anticipate (what 8 year old does?) 

Things had changed. 

I wasn’t away that long, but things had definitely changed.

My thick Belfast accent had been replaced with something a little softer (although it’s hard to believe it now).

My old school friends began to call me the Little English Girl. 

They said I was a snob. That I thought I was better than everyone else. 

So once again, I stayed quiet. Tried to blend in. Tried to please everyone, so I would be accepted. Be liked again. 

And the handwriting?

Well, of course I was back to the ‘old rules.’ 

So now my handwriting was taking up way too much of the pages as I wrote. 

Big. Bold. Two-lines deep. 

It looked ‘shouty’. 

It was now ridiculed for a different reason. My teachers and my school mates said it looked like a kid trying to learn.

The pen I brought to school was firmly dumped and I was back to pencils.

Back to the start.

So my handwriting style now? 

I think its untidiness and lack of consistency is a direct reflection of those early days. 

I often use joined up, print and capitals in the same piece of writing. 

At times is it beautifully formed. At others a complete scrawl. Big and bold. Or tiny and unintelligible.

It is fragmented. Just as I was in those early years.

So now?

Well meeting Nicky and actually participating in doing this work has revealed so much more to me than merely improving my handwriting.

It has uncovered part of my personal story and its role in shaping me.

And for that I am very grateful. 

My daily handwriting practice is now as much mediative and healing, as it is enjoying discovering who I really am. 

One letter at a time.

Thank you, Nicky.

xxx

It was an absolute pleasure supporting you Trish. Your story stays with me and inspires me to help others uncover theirs.


So what’s your handwriting story? 

How is your child’s handwriting story evolving?

I’d love to hear! 

Email nicky@betterhandwritten.com to share your story or to enquire about a personalised 1:1 support package.

Visit www.betterhandwritten.com for details of online courses, support services and to request a free personal handwriting review.