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Posts Tagged ‘cursive’

Congratulations! Welcome to the club!

 

Captain Obvious Reading

Glad we cleared that up.

 

According to the US Department of Education, 14% of the US population – and 19% of high school graduates – can NOT read. In US adults, one in five reads below a 5th grade level, while nearly three-quarters of American prison inmates are unable to read above the 4th grade level. For juveniles in the system, the number considered functionally illiterate balloons to 85%. Statistics have shown that the lower the literacy rate of an individual, the higher their chance of being poor, on public aid, or incarcerated. [1]

 

if-you-can-read-this-thank-a-teacher-ef-yoo-20035752 (1)

So suri. Wish i cud giv yoo a raze.

 

Despite what the sad literacy rates might indicate, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly 65% of adults read at least one printed book in the past year, and 73% read a book in any format. [2] A slight decline from the 2012 survey, but still hopeful numbers. Sadly, these don’t seem to include the President. [3] When the supposed “leader of the free world” finds reading unnecessary, that can only mean even more cognitive bias and greater misunderstandings.

 

Enter Society

This could get ugly.

 

The digital revolution has increased the efficiency and availability of hardware and software that can take dictation, transcribe music, read print aloud, and anticipate the user’s next need based on previous interactions. However, there’s some argument against our gadgets actually being good for us. The Marist Poll indicates that a majority of poll respondents believed our devices are detrimental to relationships and lives, leaving us – ironically – less connected. [4]

 

cell-phone-zombie

And what about when your battery dies?

 

 

The more our toys do for us, the less we do for ourselves. Cursive is rarely taught in schools anymore, and an angry toddler with a broken crayon might as well have done what printing I’ve seen from the younger generation. Plus our collective attention span seems to be growing shorter by the minute. With instantaneous communication, video-on-demand, same-day shipping, and click-bait disguised as news, trying to focus on anything for any length of time is a growing challenge. But writing things by hand can lead to better comprehension, [5] and reading more can make you smarter. [6]

 

Reading_quotes_crave_book32

Wands supplied by Ticonderoga and Waterman.

 

 

And now that I’ve used lots of pretty pictures to keep your attention, here’s the point of the story: go read. Go read lots. Go read now. Go read printed or electronic. Go read with friends. Go read alone. Just read. We’ll all be better off. And maybe we can stave off the regression back into pictographs just a little while longer. [7]

 

AfraidEmoji

 

[1] “15 US Literacy Rate and Illiteracy Statistics”

http://brandongaille.com/us-literacy-rate-and-illiteracy-statistics/

[2] “Book Reading 2016”

http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/09/01/book-reading-2016/

[3] “Trump ‘does not read books’: report”

http://ew.com/books/2017/01/25/trump-does-not-read-books-report/

[4] “6/21: Is Technology “Dumbing Down” Society?”

http://maristpoll.marist.edu/614-is-technology-dumbing-down-society/

[5] “Why Pen and Paper Beats a Laptop Every Time for Taking Notes”

https://www.communicaid.com/communication-skills/blog/writing-skillsbusiness-writing-skills/taking-notes-better-using-laptop-tablet/

[6] “Warren Buffett’s reading routine could make you smarter, science suggests”

http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/16/warren-buffetts-reading-routine-could-make-you-smarter-suggests-science.html

[7] “How Emojis are Like Hieroglyphics”

https://www.mabbly.com/how-emojis-are-like-hieroglyphics/

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I was one of those weird kids, as you’ve probably already figured out. That quiet one in the corner who likes to read, will actually eat her vegetables willingly (except squash – not even on a dare!), and asks questions that make teachers stutter. While the rest of my peers were either 1) teasing me, or 2) ignoring me, I was plotting the overthrow of the universe, one backwater planet at a time. Starting with this one, of course. You’ll get your orders soon.

Anyway, one of the other indicators of my weirdness is that I actually like to write by hand. I was taught cursive in school, probably part of the last generation to have that skill. Which is kind of scary to me, given that our founding documents and many other Very Important Papers were all done in cursive, and if we don’t teach it anymore, how are we going to read it? Those documents will become the domain of an elite who will tell us what they say and, like the Dark Ages when the clergy told the masses what was in the Bible, we’ll end up with some twisted, garbled version like out of a Star Trek episode. (E plebnista, anyone?)

I had to learn to write by hand because “keyboarding” didn’t exist (yeah, I’m that old), unless you meant taking a typing class, which I took under duress (then, but am thankful for it now) to waste time before I could take Driver’s Ed. That one’s not offered in schools anymore either, sadly, and we’ve been seeing the results of that on the roads a lot lately. But I digress.

I thought cursive was cool. I even dove into calligraphy for a while. It fascinated me that something so simple as handwriting could be so beautiful. As a kid, I was really into the Gothic styles, but I’ve mellowed with age and now prefer the more elegant and simpler styles of penmanship. Handwriting allows a connection to the mind that typing directly into a computer just doesn’t quite match. I love the scratch of a fountain pen nib across the face of some really nice cotton bond paper. It makes me feel like I’m really accomplishing something. But I’ve already blathered a bit about that aspect of manual writing before (check out my previous rants “Recycling” and “Keyboards and Pencils and Pens, Oh My!” for further details), and this entry isn’t really about that, anyway.

No, today I’d like to tell you about how I realized handwriting my latest novel wasn’t going to be the best course of action. Not if I actually wanted it finished this century. Let alone this decade. I started it with my favorite fountain pen (fine point, green ink) and this lovely paper I get from Levenger (a business that caters to the discriminating writer and reader in all of us). Yes, it’s pricey, but the stuff is a dream to write on and I can use both sides of the page without experiencing bleed-through. Plus the format works well for keeping track of project info and scribbling in notes. Regular notebook paper you get from the local big box store can barely handle pencil. Once I found this combo, it was really hard for me to write any other way.

So off I go, scribbling away on the new novel. I very quickly have lots of paper floating around, with scenes from all over what is becoming a massive project. No, I often don’t write the first draft in linear form – it comes to me how it comes to me, and then I have to put the puzzle pieces together in some sort of order later. Plus there’s the research for the various science, historical and cultural aspects, sticky notes tacked all over with links to websites, books and articles. Add to this, there are the character notes, glossary of terms and names and places for me to keep straight; pictures for inspiration, and all the other little bits and pieces that one must keep track of when jotting down what is looking like a serious trilogy. After a few months and about 20,000 words, I tried to organize it into a binder. It was 3” thick.

I struggled with that for a few weeks, but it got really frustrating flipping pages back and forth to try and find that one bizarre reference in one character’s history I didn’t think would be important enough to note, and now finding out that it was a major deal. I was losing a lot of time looking for stuff instead of writing, and I had barely begun the project! It was time to join the computer age.

There are a lot of decent software programs out there, for a variety of things. And I know plenty of writers who use just plain word processing programs quite successfully. But this was going to be beyond just word processing, and I hate Microsoft Word even on a good day (the original WordPerfect was a superior product, IMHO), so it wasn’t even in the picture. No, this was going to take something a little more than straight typing from page to page. I have Final Draft for my screenwriting, and while it’s fabulous for how I work in that medium, it wasn’t quite what I wanted for the novel.

After stumbling around the Internet for a while, I came across Scrivener. It took me going back to the site several times while looking at other programs in between before I finally bit the bullet and bought it. As most programs go, it’s damn cheap. Especially once you find out just what it can do for you. And it was also one of the (VERY) few that ran on a Mac (it was actually specifically built for Mac first). I can organize on the computer now like I was doing with pen and ink. I can write the individual scenes and move them around on a virtual corkboard into whatever order I want, as many times as I want, with just a simple drag and drop. I can link to my research, add all sorts of media, jot notes, keep track of the different drafts, compile and export into various formats, and all sorts of other things I haven’t even begun to investigate. Yes, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but the onboard tutorials and help sections are stellar.  If you’re like me, and write by the seat of your pants as the voices in your head blurt their life stories at you, Scrivener is an organizational lifesaver.

Yes, I miss my fountain pen. Handwriting is just such a luxurious creative connection. But I think in the long term, my conversion will work out for the best. Now I don’t have to hand write everything first, trying to keep track of all those pieces of paper over the months and years, and THEN type it all into the computer so it can be edited and submitted somewhere. And with various electronic backups, I don’t run the risk of losing everything in a house fire or having Chapter 3 eaten by the dog. My novels have joined the computer age.

The short stories, however, are still fountain pen fodder. Just where did I put my ink…

P.S. Just to be clear, I wasn’t asked to do any reviews of the above-mentioned products, nor have I received any compensation in any form from any of those businesses. I just wanted to share what I found to be helpful for me, and hope it helps some of you.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All rights Reserved.

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I’m on a roll with my current novel, and don’t really want to take the time away to come up with an all new witty or intelligent or snarky rant for this week, so I’m recycling an old article from a few years ago. However, it is something I’ve been thinking about lately, as I miss my fountain pen and get irradiated by my computer, so I felt it was somewhat relevant for posting. Sorry for any disappointment, but it’s something writers do a lot. Besides, you’ll understand when the voices in your head won’t shut up.

It was originally titled “Handwriting and the death of independence” and was published on Examiner.com in August 2010. While the page I had there is still active, I no longer write for them, for reasons I won’t go into here. Hope you enjoy it.

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The world is filled with electronic gadgets.  They help us navigate through unfamiliar places, manage our calendars, and phone home.  Run by computer chips, they are just about everywhere, even in our toasters, and they are growing in capacity, speed and prevalence exponentially.  If we’re not careful, they will be our downfall.

My, what a pretty grim picture, you might by thinking, but let’s look at the issue without the light of supposed convenience upon it.  The more gadgets there are, the more they can do for us, and the less we do for ourselves.  You’re probably still not convinced that it’s such a bad thing, and that maybe someone has been reading too much Orwellian science fiction.  Point taken, but why don’t you go watch Wall-E again, and then come back and we’ll talk.

The death knell of the Middle Ages came when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1450.  Consistently listed as one of the most significant inventions of man, the printing press allowed information to be widely disseminated, and caused a cultural reformation the likes of which we haven’t seen since.  Up to that point, only members of the autocratic rich and the Church were able to read and write, telling the masses whatever was convenient to keep them controlled.  Information was power, and as long as the public didn’t have ready access to that information, the power was in the hands of a small, elite, group.

Nowadays, we can’t fathom not being able to read and write as a matter of course.  We are appalled and dumbfounded by the likes of the Taliban, who not only make educating women a crime, but also actively punish those who try by throwing acid in the faces of the girls on their way to school, and assassinating the teachers who wait for them.  The root of control is keeping the masses ignorant.  We see examples of that all over the world on a daily basis.

So why is it that we are willingly allowing ourselves to return to ignorance?  Ah, still not following, are we?  When was the last time you wrote a letter to a friend or family member?  And we’re not talking a thumb-typed e-mail into your smart phone.  An actual sit-down-and-handwrite-on-paper letter.  In fact, when was the last time you picked up a writing utensil to use it for anything besides unjamming your stapler or chewing on it while reading CNN on your computer?

All those wonderful, convenient, smart, helpful gadgets are making us dumber.  According to a poll of 3,000 people neuroscientist Ian Robertson did several years ago (“Your Outboard Brain Knows All”), young people were less able than older ones to remember normal personal info.  87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite a relative’s birthday, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could. When asked their own phone number, one-third of the younger set had to pull out their handsets to look it up.

And there are articles galore touting the death of handwriting.  The New York Times heralded its coming demise as long ago as 2002 (“Handwriting: Is It on the Wall?”), and CBS News added their voice to the cry in 2003 (“Penmanship: A Dying Art?”).  Now, most articles out there seem to focus on cursive, something that some of you probably have never experienced, with fewer elementary schools actually teaching it these days.  But the argument can be made that handwriting in general is going the way of the dodo.

Katie Bartel of the Chilliwack Progress quotes Ashton Howley, professor of English literature and communications at the University of the Fraser Valley in her article “Handwriting, a dying art” [link no longer active, sadly – C].  Professor Howley states that the demise of handwriting should be cause for concern. “Writing encourages dialogue between the brain’s hemispheres. The subconscious eye is always monitoring one’s handwriting and tends to open up … making the writing much deeper, better, more revealing, more holistic in nature,” says Howley.  Writing affects the thinking process and communication in ways typing can’t.

For hundreds of years our literary achievements were created using pen and ink on paper, longhand:  Moby Dick, The Time Machine, and even the Harry Potter series, to name just a miniscule example.  They took time and effort, and have indelibly planted themselves in our culture for years to come.  Just because the computer allows us to do something faster, doesn’t mean it’s also better.

We have surrounded ourselves by false gods, dependent on these electronic creations to manage our lives, feed us our information, and lead us to the nearest Starbucks, and becoming totally helpless when they die, the power’s out, or we’re out of our service area.  And with more of our gadgets becoming voice interactive, able to make phone calls on verbal command or read us our e-mail while we kick back in our recliners, how soon will it be before reading joins the endangered list?

Hypocritical as it may be, given the medium in which you’re likely reading these words, cyberspace could very well be a convenience that dulls us all into oblivion, the proverbial frog slowly boiled to death.  Like all power tools, it should be used with a great deal of caution and cynicism, and should also have a manual back up, just in case.

Today’s atmosphere of instant-communications-bred artificial urgency does nothing for your soul.  Take the time to slow down and smell the ink; write a note to your Mom, pull out that dog-eared paperback saved from your childhood, and breathe.  You’ll be amazed at the results.

© 2013  Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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