In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

Daily Prompt: When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

I don’t think that I ever left the pre-keyboard era. At work, I handwrite my meeting notes. Sometimes it’s just easier to grab pen and paper, especially since we don’t have work-issued tablets and laptops. Even with technology at the ready, you have to take time to open a program, set up the format, save the file…then you have to type accurately. And it’s not like I can’t use technology with my handwritten notes. We can scan them into the computer, and save them as a PDF, and throw them into OneNote or Evernote. While I’ve kept my journal on the computer for years, I was forced to handwrite for a couple of days when Superstorm Sandy knocked out the power.

Even with all this handwriting, I use my computer almost every day. I’ve been keyboarding since the 70s, when I learned to type on a manual typewriter. I worked as a statistical typist on a Selectric typewriter, went to a MICOM word processor in the 80s, then on to WordPerfect on a desktop computer in the 90s. On the keyboard I can write as fast as I think. (Though nowadays, I type faster than I think!)

My difficulty with the question of a “pre-keyboard era” is that handwriting and keyboarding for me are not mutually exclusive. Even before the era of the smartphone, I would handwrite into a Palm Tungsten, or hook it up to a Bluetooth keyboard; or, sketch out an outline by hand before I flesh the piece out on the keyboard. For me, it’s a question of the right tool for the job, and the more tools, the better.

It also makes me wonder if today’s young people have less writing tools available to them than I did at their age. There is discussion in educational circles on whether we should continue to teach penmanship. At the same time, there are children who attend schools without computers, or even up-to-date books. And I have witness young adults in the workforce who don’t know how to how to navigate the Internet, or Microsoft Office on a desktop or a laptop, since their entry to the Internet is the “small screen”—a smartphone. It makes me wonder how they will be able to find their voice through writing.


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