23 January is #nationalhandwritingday

I am really grateful to my school history teacher (we had the same amazing woman for 5 years) who taught us to write an A4 page in 10 minutes. She knew that if we couldn’t do that, we wouldn’t pass our history exams. That was in the pre-computer era.Then when I became a teacher, in the computer-era, I had a real struggle to teach my students the same skill. By then it was more imperative (can that be possible?) for handwriting training so students had the stamina to get through an exam writing by hand when everything else was done on computer.

There are pros and cons to both handwriting and typing, but overall I think the skill of handwriting is far more valuable than that of typing. Fine motor skills which can’t be developed on a machine. For many of us, our initial thoughts take place on paper – words or doodles, there’s invariably a piece of paper to write on irrespective of where you are whilst a computer or android, mac or other tablet is not.

As a writer, I use both handwriting and typing – depending on what I’m doing, where I am and what my deadlines are. Interestingly, my writing approaches and styles differ between the two and I noticed when experimenting with voice-activated typing systems that my style was completely alien to what it was when I wrote. It must be that different parts of our brain are stimulated by each respective recording method.

This seems to be supported by others.
The Guardian reports
Freakanomics found mixed results – I think more quickly writing than typing (less distraction)
BBC claims the writing is on the wall – so true. If I haven’t written for a while, my handwriting is ill-formed and doesn’t flow as smoothly
How does it all differ to caligraphy? Chinese calligraphy is a prize-art form.

Importantly, children with dyslexia and dyspraxia should be encouraged to write – not for writing’s sake but because of the other benefits. Some helpful advice can be found on how to manage the challenges these children face. And there’s a National Handwriting Association.

Convinced that handwriting is important and need to improve yours? Here are some handy tips.

And for those needing some inspiration for story lines, perhaps the Hidden Code of handwriting might help.

How do you create your masterpieces? Please share but don’t forget to let us know what type of masterpiece you create. That is just as important in determining the most appropriate creative process.

“Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.”
― Walter Benjamin

Thanks Pablo for the image

Have you seen?


The sign of a good book

What is a ‘good’ book? For me, it’s rarely a best seller. It’s a book which makes me think and spot something new every time I read it or one I’m not likely to go back to read again because of the emotions which remain with me. Here’s what other think:

Books that stay with you contains some of those I regard as fitting the category.

Thanks to Pablo for image



I came across the word tropes related to comic-books in a book I was recently reading, so I decided to see what the internet suggested. I was amazed…

TV Tropes is an ‘official site’ noting on its home page:

Merriam-Webster defines trope as a “figure of speech.” For creative writer types, tropes are more about conveying a concept to the audience without needing to spell out all the details.

The wiki is called “TV Tropes” because TV is where we started. Over the course of a few years, our scope has crept out to include other media. Tropes transcend television. They reflect life. Since a lot of art, especially the popular arts, does its best to reflect life, tropes are likely to show up everywhere.

This link got a little more academic, whilst Wikipedia explains a little more simply, including variations.

I think I’ve got it – but please, don’t ask me to try and explain.

And to cause a little more confusion – memes are introduced here (click on image)

Thanks Pablo for the image


Language – crossing boundaries

With the increase in cross-boundary and cross-cultural writing, it’s important that the writer gets the language of the protagonists right but also to ensure that the reader knows what is meant.

The importance of this was brought home to me quite early on in my stay in England – in South Africa what we call pants are called trousers in England, while pants in England refer to underwear. There are different definitions/understandings of the term now which I won’t even venture to explain in text – if you’re curious, find a South African and ask them to explain the difference between now, just now, and now now. Engaging with a Caribbean colleague enlightened me to a different meaning behind the verb to cane. In South Africa and it appears British school slang this was to get a hiding whilst in Jamaica it meant to get high on drugs. An article in the Harrow Times brought introduced another meaning of the verb to ride. But sometimes, it’s more straightforward than double (or triple) meanings. Sometimes, terms are used from another language.

So how do authors convey these different interpretations of words to ensure their readers get the point?
Anna Ryland’s A Second Chance has a glossary at the end of the book for those who want to double check they’ve understood the Polish terms used. John Samson’s Shaka are Dead and Maya Alexandri’s The Celebration Husband make the meaning explicit through the context in which the slang is used.

Thanks Pablo for the image