Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saturday's Evening Post

Lessons Learned:  Repeat As Necessary

Or . . . practice. That's really what it means to learn something. Right? The same rules apply to whatever we desire to master. Mastery is a "comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment." A master is a skilled practitioner of a particular art or activity. We master by learning the basics of everything, from yoga to the Kama Sutra. We practice what we learn, and we improve our skills until we are capable of upgrading our little straw hut into a house of mud, and before too long we've built a brick-and-mortar mansion!

Remember when printing the alphabet was the hardest thing imaginable? My handwriting muscles still wince at the memory of the pain they endured as the result of my death-grip hold on my fat first grade pencil! It hurt but I never gave up.  Forming each letter, from A to Z, prepared us for what would eventually be: learning the basics of communicating by connecting several letters that magically morphed into words our teacher could read! Wallah! Learning to talk was easier! But no matter, eventually our simple cat-hat-mat words grew into simple, complex sentences . . . and then lo! and behold! we were writing paragraphs and chapters and pages! Love notes, too!

The word has given birth to great orators, writers, storytellers, musicians, poets and liars. Oral stories were recorded to teach and entertain. Cave paintings gave way to . . . words. Right? Plain words eventuated when man became more sophisticated and had leisure time to flourish and prettify written thoughts. And that's where this post comes in.

Yes, I keep going back to some of the same roots. New tools still teach old lessons well, and The Art of the Handwritten Note still teaches this old girl, and refreshes as necessary. Yes, I learned to write a proper letter in school. And, yes, I learned to break any rule I want now. Forget about business letter rules! I learned to play with my mail! Patty was my first "playground teacher" back when I was still moderately rule-bound. I did not write letters with a red pen. I have never turned an envelope. Not yet. There's time, if I am ever so inclined. And, while I love mail art in any form, I know my limitations. I'm still a little old school, but good penmanship still rules in my inner school house.  

I've lost several pen friendships since I first came to play, and I blame indecipherable handwriting. I could not read what they'd written, therefore I could not write back. Chicken scratch is an insult. The blind have braille. If you can see, write or draw, your handwriting should be legible. Legible simply means "clear enough to read." If you're not good at cursive, print. Only print legibly.

Careless handwriting is a pet peeve that ranks right up there with manmade scents and the cheap paper I buy because I like the art. I can stop with the bad paper, and bad writers can improve their hand. My first big time job was with Methodist Hospital. I almost aced the medical terminology test that came at the end of the requisite class, so if I could learn the language I expected legible words from the doctors whose orders I had to transcribe. Talk about being proud. Then horribly disappointed, and even angry. Two very prestigious teaching doctors wrote the worst orders in longhand, ever! One mistake on my and the charge nurse's part could have been the difference between death and possible coma. Not in that order either. I learned though. The best charge nurse in Texas taught me to turn the page at a forty-five degree angle or upside down, and God bless America, and Edna Henry! We read it! Doctors, residents and interns often use the excuse that they don't have time to worry about penmanship when they're taking notes on the fly, but I know better. Secretaries do it all the time. So, pfft

You can make anything by writing, so said C. S. Lewis. I say you can even make friends.
But anyway . . . to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Life is not so short but that there is always time enough for courtesy." Margaret Shepherd basically tells us the same thing on page 33, under Handwriting:  "Your handwriting reveals you in a number of ways. The fact that you choose to write by hand at all shows that you are not afraid to give something of yourself to other people . . ." Aww. And, "You may be motivated to try to improve your handwriting. Decide how much improvement you want, and then read the suggestions about how you can make it happen and maintain it." You may refine it by upgrading from basic to calligraphic, and repair from poor to good, or rescue it from awful to passable. I promise you she said these things. You doubt? Check her out. 

I've watched my handwriting change with time. My letters aren't as crisp or as well formed as they once were. There've been times when I couldn't read my own writing! I blamed a bum shoulder, quite righteously, but still . . . That's changing now that I . . .

. . . to be continued.

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