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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cursive for Pantsters - Slow Down and Get Organized

By Sandy Nachlinger

Do you have a friend who comes up with … uh … unusual ideas? I do. My friend Sandra Allen* had a brilliant (?) plan recently about something we should try. 
Writing in Cursive?

Sandra and I have been friends since the eighth grade and have corresponded with each other for decades—through handwritten and typewritten pages. Recently, word-processed snail mail letters, email messages, and texts have been added to our communication methods. She’s a retired elementary school teacher who lives in North Texas; I’m retired now too and live in the Pacific Northwest. After lamenting the decline of cursive writing in education, my friend’s latest brainstorm appeared in a letter she mailed to me—one she’d created using word processing and sent via the United States Postal Service: We should write snail-mail letters to each other in cursive like we used to. Was I up for the challenge? Of course I agreed.

Finger Cramps

I searched the house, came up with a yellow legal pad, and then sat down to write. It quickly became apparent that unless I wanted a page filled with cross-throughs, rambling scribbles, and arrows to insert thoughts and omitted words, I’d have to stop and organize my brain before putting pen to paper. So I considered what I wanted to tell my friend, planned it out in my head, and started writing. About half-way down the page, I had to stop, put down my ballpoint, and shake out my hand. Like my last attempt at pushups, I found that my writing muscles hadn’t been used for creating more than a few repetitions in a long time! But I did manage to pen several pages (legibly!) and send the letter on its way. In Sandra’s response, she closed her hand-written letter to me with these words: This was harder than I thought it would be!

Slowing Down Can Be Fastest

Aside from giving me stiff fingers, this exercise reminded me of the value of taking a few moments to organize my thoughts before sitting down to write a story. No, I’m not one of those people who outlines her story – I’m a “pantster” who  creates by the seat of her pants. But this exercise in cursive forced me to slow down and consider each word. I realized my fiction writing would benefit from this approach. I’m not going to write a 350-page book in longhand, but if a scene is giving me trouble, I’ll take out pen and paper and try to create it the old-fashioned way, focusing on each word. Slowing down can sometimes be the best and fastest way to get something done!

Now I have to ask: When was the last time you wrote something with a pen or pencil (other than a grocery list)? When was the last time you mailed a snail-mail letter to a friend? Or do you communicate solely by email or text message?

Cursive Chart Source: Mesa Public Schools

*Sandra Allen and I co-authored I.O.U. SEX, available in paperback and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other online booksellers. We collaborated via email and cell phone.
Amazon eBook Link


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sad to say, young people nowadays not only cannot write cursive, they can't read it. I've actually heard a kid say, "I can't read cursive." What a sad state. When I was in school, we had writing exercises every single day. ..... And as you say, you have to sit down and organize your thoughts before you begin to write. That became especially important once we reached high school and had to start writing with ink that couldn't be erased. Nor could we turn in a paper filled with mark-throughs unless we wanted a bad grade.

  3. I keep a prayer journal that I write in every other day (in cursive!). My older son's handwriting is passable; my 21 y/o daughter's is atrocious; my 11 y/o was only taught the alphabet in cursive before the schools gave it up. I joke that I sometimes have problems reading my own handwriting, so I guess the older two come by it honestly! And yes, I'm the one who has to read all of Grandma's handwritten notes on birthday cards.....sometimes my older son can make out most of the words.

    1. I guess those of us who can read cursive could always work as consultants in deciphering hand-written documents!

  4. When my kids were in grade school I volunteered in the class rooms. The teachers always had me write the cursive charts and words for them. Now my handwriting looks close to chicken scratch!

    1. My handwriting has deteriorated too, probably from not being used.

  5. I used to have neat handwriting but no longer. Mostly for me it's due to familial tremors-- creates some interesting effects when painting too...


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