My mother has impossibly perfect handwriting – small, uniform, and neat. I could never forge her signature on bad report cards.
She was an absolute stickler for good handwriting, and when I was a child, my sloppy letters must have irked her supremely. She’d hover over my shoulder, remonstrating me for my illegible sentences and making me redo them. I grew to hate the word “neatly” I heard it so often.
Those early lessons in penmanship helped train my wayward hand to precision, and they also provided a process through which I could tame my tangled thoughts.
I often struggled in school. Concentrating was like ordering a swarm of bees while trudging through a swamp. Over the years, I developed coping mechanisms. I am a visual learner, so I draw lots of maps and graphs. I drink quite a bit of coffee and, in the past year, started taking non-stimulant ADD medication. Talk about a revelation! I’d not realized the extent of my mental fog until coming out of it every now and then. The fog, the mire, is never completely gone, but it’s abated, and I’m much better at navigating it now.
I still have problems focusing, especially with a toddler thrown in the mix. Consistent disruption and lack of sleep compound my already-disordered mind. I’m trying out new methods to improve concentration, such as meditation, but what I’m realizing is that the old-standby of hand-written drafting works about as good as anything at crystalizing thought.
Something about the subtle scratch of my favorite pen and seeing that jumbled mass of ideas transformed into neat lines calms my mind. A sort of tactile meditation…
My goal is to wrestle myself away from the computer when I write, to cut down on the distractions and interruptions that come with being constantly connected.
Sometimes stepping back and putting pen to paper is the best way to move forward.