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A Cursive Cramp
August 9, 2017
A few years ago I took a creative writing class from Professor Patricia McGraw. It was a three-credit course designed for advanced writers. Absolutely, I wanted to get the most out of the class. But I also wanted to get an “A” (grade-seeker - a horrible trait leftover from not having achieved anything athletic in my childhood years). That meant doing all the homework, even the things I found redundant or repetitive. Everything.
Professor McGraw was a huge fan of cursive. She said it got our creative juices flowing to engage our hands in what is quickly becoming a medieval practice. Four handwritten lined-notebook pages a night -Ugh! It was agony for me. I have terrible, scratchy handwriting. My hands do not form circles. I can’t get anything on my body to make a circle. Ankle rolls during yoga, hula hoop hips, all of it is difficult. I’m not graceful, I’m purposeful. I can hand-draw a window opening without a level. I’m the chick that does all the cut-in for family painting project. I don’t create circles or graceful arcs.
Can you imagine getting a mediocre grade because of a simple thing like cursive? It felt positively elementary-schoolish – until I got the hang of it. Yes, like most people my brain works faster than my hands. I had to relax my thoughts, which turned out to allow more time for different, additional thoughts. Who knew? When I realized that Professor McGraw wasn’t looking at the content, I still felt an obligation to do the task justice. One day I wrote four entire pages of potential book titles that all flowed into one another. “The Life We Made – Making The Pie – A Pie in Your Eye – The Eyes Have It – It Happened in the Park – Park Plaza Promise - Promise You’re Not a Psycho – Psycho is Another Name for Different – A Different Desire…” Once I wrote a grocery list from when I was a kid, “Chef-Boy-Ardee Raviolis, Captain Crunch Cereal, Frosted Pop Tarts, Tang – the choice of astronauts…” You get the picture.
Before class we’d compare notes about how ridiculous our journals were. One guy wrote everything the NHL Hockey commentator said. Another recorded all the commercials while she power-watched back-to-back episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Still another student detailed every move her cat made – adding extremely funny dialogue in between actions. We thought we were beating the system, but we had to admit that something was happening. Ideas were being triggered by the action of writing by hand.
Today, cursive is making a comeback. I recently saw a news show about the Campaign for Cursive’s 2017 contest winners. It was filled with kids who were treating the learning of cursive like a language or an archeological dig. They were cursive powerhouses, proud to have mastered a language that many of their friends didn’t know existed.