handwriting

2021-09-11
2022-01-04

Despite my enthusiasm for fonts and fontmaking, I've never paid much attention to my own handwriting. Whenever I saw neat scripts or typography, it was in the context of an art piece, a historical artifact, or a digital production and never a personal potential. In spite of this separation, likely brought about by a habit of using keyboards and reading computer screens and associating handwriting with unwanted schoolwork, the actual act of writing has consistently been something enjoyable. So in the spirit of transforming an abstract good into a concrete good, this page will act as a record and an aid in my quest to write more beautifully.

As is usual in this age of the internet, this quest starts with a research into and acquisition of favorable tools.

Writing instrument. Up until recently, a pencil was personally considered to be the best writing utensil and the mechanical pencil its ultimate form. The lead creates soft and pleasant markings that can easily be erased. Educational processes also usually require the pencil. But searching for the best mechanical pencil unwittingly became a gateway into the world of pens.

Many people consider fountain pens to be the optimal writing tool as they provide ample pleasure, ease, cost-effectiveness, and an honest reflection of aptitude. The additional requirements of portability, quality, cost, and minimalist aesthetic then helped narrow the search down to the steel Kaweco Liliput fountain pen with a fine nib. As a matter of preference, the pen also had to be fixed-point (constant stroke width) and transmit ink generously and confidently but not too thickly (hence the fine nib), all characteristics that contribute to minimalism and note-taking.

As for the ink, a dark, permanent black seems ideal. For now, this is the De Atramentis Document Black. But ink selection may change as practices become more sophisticated.

(Several other fountain pens have been acquired since, to my half-chagrin. ^ = favorite; + = like; * = dislike)

Recording medium. A paper notebook is the obvious choice, and apparently, specific types of paper are produced to work better with fountain pen inks. But since the type of paper is less critical than, say, its size, manipulability, or durability, Rhodia and Leuchtturm notebooks were easily settled on.

Organisation & method. What to write? The intention is to maximise opportunities for writing and even take over previously digitally-bound duties when reasonable. Furthermore, this particular quest for calligraphic betterment proceeds alongside an adoption of the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, so the frequent use of notebooks will play a central part.

A regular form of practice must also be instituted, but what that is is yet to be determined.

Goals. The ultimate goal is to habitualise a few styles of handwriting that anyone (but mostly the scribe) can consider beautiful. The main style will be print (ie. not cursive). A secondary style will either be cursive or a variation of the main style. A third style may turn out to be necessary for more decorative and ornamental purposes. The habitualisation must be such that all styles are executable in contexts swift and slow, automatic and deliberate, larger and smaller. Ideally, the styles will simultaneously be unique and familiar, the former as a display of the writer's spirit and personality, and the latter in terms of a universal sense of proportion and taste.

For pragmatic purposes, intermediate or shorter-term goals should be considered. But to clearly define them, more knowledge of handwriting basics is needed. In saying that, the best approach may be to read through educational texts on this topic.

2021-09-11: first steps

A few weeks have passed since the acquisition of the first (and hopefully last edit: nope, not last) fountain pen. Ink and cartridge syringe as well.

A lot of scribbling, testing, and doodling in the "scratch"-designated Rhodia. Saturated a few pages with letters of the alphabet and then a couple more with random lines, words, and phrases. The Liliput's nib came too dry so the tip has been widened and the feed deepened. Ink flows very generously now and meets the paper perfectly.

Writing on the Rhodia paper is a near-orgasmic experience. Unfortunately, these types of notebooks are expensive regardless of the maker, so a few different ones need to be sampled before committing to a specific brand-paper-form-factor combination. That said, a pristine B6 Leuchtturm sits in the corner of the desk, ready to be populated with the first of the real schedule-keeping and GTD stuff.

Been scouring youtube and duckduckgo for instructions on how to improve handwriting and miscellaneous information about fountain pens. A reliable book or guide on handwriting should be chosen soon; under consideration are Sassoon-Briem and Getty-Dubay (but maybe not the latter, as it seems to impose a particular style). Parallel adoption of GTD means that finishing the GTD book must also be prioritised.

2021-09-13: book

Acquired a copy of Sassoon and Briem's Improve Your Handwriting. The objective is to read this book from cover to cover to gain both theoretical reinforcement and appropriate practice. The contents of the book will hopefully be enough to systematically parse through the current (non-)style and improve it, either piecewise or in total, according to personal taste.

2021-09-19

More scribbling and thinking -- not yet started on Sassoon-Briem. A fast style will likely be different from a slow deliberate style, but the two should still recognisably be siblings. Non-dominant (left) hand should also be trained for maximum use of instruments (including the body).

2021-10-02: left hand & more pens

Been left-hand writing a page of pangrams every day, and a surprisingly fast improvement has been evident. Also acquired a Pelikan Pelikano pen and a Spoke Axle S pen, the former for testing out a more standard pen size and broader nib, and the latter because it is basically (in my eyes) an improved Liliput with a saner diameter and a #6 Jowo nib.

The Pelikano is excellent for its price but frankly meh in comparison to the other two pens. While the nib is smoother than anything the Liliput's fine can provide, the overall body dimensions are less than desirable. The Axle on the other hand is close to perfection. As a slightly bigger step-brother to the Liliput, it can provide a change of pace in the writing experience. If the inclination shows itself, the nib can easily be substituted with variations. Unfortunately, its feed has an inkflow problem out-of-the-box so it does not write at the moment. (edit: Easily fixed by manually realigning feed fins.) Thought a Liliput would be the only fountain pen I would ever want, but regrettably... nope. The Liliput is still the most stylistically sympathetic but the Axle is functionally more accommodating.

Getting the Pelikano was an introduction to longer standard cartridges. Plan on cutting up cartridges and reconstructing maximally-fitting ones (via glue) for both the Liliput and the Axle.

2021-10-04: proximal tripod grip

Settled on a go-to gripping style. Fingertips stage a regular tripod, but the body of the pen plops sideways, on the index finger's proximal phalanx. The nib's tip points due-west or due-east, depending on whether the right or left hand, respectively, is being used. The pen is lifted from the writing surface at whichever angle fits the pen. The breather hole points straight up on the pen-body-twist-axis.

Several advantages to this grip:

But also some disadvantages:

In summary, some aspects of writing style and materials positioning comfort are sacrificed for the benefit of long-term postural comfort and easing of pressure-points (the gripping fingertips and the fulcrum hand-edge). This grip allows the components of the hand to be more free, but that also implies a stronger correlation between dexterity and regularity. For finer lines and smaller glyphs, this grip seems optimal for the freedom and comfort that it affords.

2021-10-09: custom cartridges

Crafted maximally-fitting cartridges for the Liliput and the Axle using plastic adhesives. Whether ink will interact poorly with the dried adhesive is yet unknown. (edit: Seems fine, after a week with De Atramentis Document Black.) The Pelikano was given away.

Also acquired books on pen drawing and calligraphy: Artistry Pen & Ink, Dunn's Pen & Ink Drawing, Harris' Art of Calligraphy. Learning more about pens and techniques may help with handwriting.

2021-10-18: more left hand

For a few weeks now, left hand improvement has plateaued at a very mediocre stage. The hand and brain now get filled with a certain restlessness that springs from the difficulty of translating noumena into adequate style. The corporeal anxiety butts against constant self-reminders to slow down, to not grip or focus so intensely, and to faithfully imitate the right hand.

The Rhodia has been written into as much as the GTD book has been read -- about three quarters. Once they are complete, a new Rhodia/Moleskine will become the new scratch and the little Leuchtturm will take the main stage. After some more research into notebook-based GTD, the Sassoon-Briem will be visited, accompanied by brief trips to the art-related resources.

2021-10-23: GTD

Finished reading GTD and started designing a workflow and physical framework. Implemented the first version of the design into the Leuchtturm, starting with cover notes, a calendar, and an initial dump of projects.

A single notebook will be used, with three sections, divided into "persistent", "dynamic", and "volatile".

2021-11-23: quest for extra-fine & more pens

The first steps into notebooking in the dotted Leuchtturm proved that a very fine stroke was needed. The nibs on both the Liliput and the Axle didn't quite cut it.

The suboptimality of nib size caused the regular attention to GTD to dwindle in the past month. Sitting up straight, a search for the perfect extra-fine was embarked upon, starting with a Kaweco Sport demonstrator. The stroke size of the new 060 nib was perfect but not the wetness (and consequently, the opacity of the ink). Ink also seeped into the pen's section, from which it could not be removed, to some dismay. So the next attempt came to the Lamy CP1. Slightly thin and non-concave grip, but a fantastic writer. The shop only had it in medium so an extra-fine (+ 1.1 stub) was ordered separately, which is still en route. Meanwhile, restlessness and curiosity overpowered patience, and other pens were peeked at. Given the excellence of the Axle's #6 Jowo, a #6 Jowo holder (ie. pen) was desired and the search stopped at the Franklin-Christoph 20P. Although the grip is a tad slick (necessitating the application of mouse grip tape), its nib and feed are perfect. These can also be swapped with the Axle's if the hand starts longing for the latter's exquisite body shape (I should start calling the Axle "my Venus").

Also came across an inexpensive older Pilot Elite in extra-fine and promptly ordered it.

Literature consumption also slowed down, but now that at least one optimal pen configuration is in possession, the Sassoon-Briem will resume.

2021-12-06: grip change & more pens

Even with continued practice with the "proximal tripod grip" described above, the hand remained reluctant to grip with comfort and precision. But the old, regular tripod grip promoted tightening and writer's callus, so returning to that was a no-go, and a new style had to be pursued. The next best seems to be the adaptive tripod grip (with barrel between index and middle fingers). It allows the pad of the thumb to support the pen from the bottom, rather than the middle finger's knuckle. It also provides the most anchored positioning of the pen body while still giving the tripod a natural maneuverability. The angle of the pen can be easily adjusted by the extension or retraction of the fingers.

Thorough enjoyment of the Axle, 20P, and CP1 (along with its two new nib sizes) caused self-control to soften and attention began roaming the internet once more. In a moment of wide-eyed weakness, a used Pelikan M215 was purchased.

The Elite arrived but with a nib that either is too tight or has a baby's bottom. With pressure, it writes very well but of course with too thick a line. Once the nib is fixed, the pen may make an interesting main driver, as the nib is more springy than the Jowo, Lamy, or Kaweco.

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