Author Topic: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?  (Read 523 times)

Offline Zivio

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Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« on: May 29, 2022, 12:48:44 AM »
      I am a novice student of Spencerian script, my objective being to use this script for everyday handwriting and correspondence.  I have no illusions of being a Calligrapher (capital ďCĒ), per se, but do hope to improve to the point of my writing to be more than presentable.

      Until now my daily practice has been focused on drills, individual letters and single words.  Iím at the place where Iíve begun moving forward to ďfree-writingĒ (brain to paper) full sentences to begin gaining some fluency in writing. In doing so, Iíve discovered a few things that seem to help if and when Iím able to be conscious of them while writing.  Coordinating them all at the same time has been a big challenge, so I decided to write them out as a list of reminders to review before, and periodically while practicing.

      Iíd love to know if anyone could share feedback on my list and any other thoughts about the kinds of things that have helped achieve greater fluency in your writing.  Itís interesting to me how sometimes different descriptions of a complex physical movement can be just whatís needed to learn something helpful! 

      Here are my reminders:

  • Relax. Always.
  • Apply a conscious lightening of the forearm on all upstrokes to remove weight from the pen.
  • Slow down when producing looped ascenders Ė take time to make them well - speed can come later.
  • Keep wrist straight, slide hand on ďfinger restĒ and use rhythmic push-pull motion to form miniscules, faster on upstrokes.  (I am learning solely muscular, whole arm writing movements.)
  • Sight a split second ahead of each letter stroke while imagining where it will fall on the page.  This is similar to what musicians do when sight-reading music Ė they constantly look ahead of the notes currently being played.
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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2022, 06:48:10 AM »
Your list looks like all the things I would recommend.
Here are two more things that you might ponder.

How wide is your paper and are you familiar with the *sweet spot* right in front of your line of vision?
For me - if I try to write on a page that is 8 1/2 inches wide - by the time I am over to the right margin, it's too far away to maintain consistency.
I prefer narrower paper - or I pause and shift the paper left and right to keep my writing in the sweet spot.
I imagine if I wrote in one style for several hours a day - day after day - eventually - I would be able to maintain consistency beyond the sweet spot.

The pausing to shift the paper doesn't feel like an interruption. I actually like pauses even on narrower paper. Sentences often come out as a series of phrases and it feels natural to pause between phrases. Or if I come to a long word - I will pause and focus on the spelling. The number one word that causes me to stop and spell it out is - remember. It's not that long or hard to spell - but, I've written - rember - so.many.times. - that it is a red flag word.

And this is something that took me years to figure out. If I am actually going to mail something to someone - I write a rough draft on notebook paper. I've wasted too much stationery and cringed at the way a few lines came out on a greeting card. I'd rather write it out once to see how it looks and sounds - and then the final is pleasing to my eye.

Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2022, 05:56:00 PM »
Thanks @jeanwilson!

I really hadn't considered the *sweet spot* idea, although in retrospect have encountered issues with it, especially on various drills.  I typically do write on 8 1/2 inch paper, so your suggestion to shift the paper is a positive contribution for me. 

Oooh, and dropping letters from long words -- thought it was just me!  My late father, once a WWII fighter pilot, had years ago described to me a phenomenon called "target fixation" - where certain pilots became so intensely focused on a target during bombing or strafing operations they unaccountably crashed into the target itself.  Apparently applies to over zealous concentration on letter forms to the point of losing the word. Your tip on writing a draft document in advance may also help to avoid this.

Thanks for your kind response -- you have always been so helpful, and I can often go for six months or more on the seemingly simplest ideas!     
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Offline InkyFingers

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2022, 08:58:23 AM »
I am inspired from reading your journey.  I wished I was as disciplined as you are when I first started. Iíve always expected immediate results after just a few days of practice. It is now 10+ yrs and I am still learning.

It takes time to develop muscle memory for me and even now I donít have the perfect whole arm movement down right. They say it takes 10,000 hours to gain world class recognition.  I practice 1hr/day for the past 10yrs which equal 2560 hrs? 

Btw I enjoyed reading Ms Wilson on the ďsweet spotĒ. I tried not to have one by doing drills that spans the entire page. It is nice and fast to gain a sweet spot but very hard to erase it. I think I created a drill that suits me.

Would you be so kind to let us know which instruction book you follow and possibly a sample of your writing?

Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2022, 01:16:11 PM »
Excellent list! One thing that is considered controversial but if you read some of the old mastersí newsletters is the pen lift. Much of the instructional material says not to penlift but may of the masters admit they penlift or I even read in a blurb they were unconscious that they were actually penlifting quite a bit (for Spencerian or Business Writing).

I do quite a bit of pen lifting at the base. Which you would think would slow you down and cause disruption but it actually helps me build a rhythm. And it gives that momentary pause which helps me gather my thoughts for the coming letters. I am a fast writer/calligrapher so it helps me intentionally slow down.
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2022, 01:52:08 PM »
From my book (which I have no idea if it will ever be finished):

ďC.P. Zaner said you should NOT glide on the nail as it is too easy to lose control and the hand should rest on the flesh of the pinkie finger just at the first knuckle. He reported in his class notes that few penmen actually did glide on the nail.Ē

Another thing I recommend is pausing every few minutes and consciously relaxing your shoulders. It is really amazing how easy it is to tense up your shoulders while you write. I find every time I check in with myself, my shoulders have risen up. I take a deep breath and relax them back down and continue on.

Also do the same with your hand grip which should be nice and relaxed. Feel where the energy is originating from - your hand, your finger tip, your shoulder - focus the energy (intention) to the pen through to the nib. This sounds a bit woo-woo but it makes a huge difference in the quality of your letter forms. Remember the connection between mind, muscle, and motion.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2022, 02:00:55 PM by Erica McPhee »
Truly, Erica
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2022, 01:57:00 PM »
One last excerpt from my book  ;D

ďGaskellís Compendium notes the following essentials of good penmanship:
legibility, rapidity, and beauty. While beautify is subjective, there are a few elements which contribute to beautiful letters: the principles, the uniformity, and the light and shade.  These are the elements to focus on during concentrated practice.

The principles are the basic shapes of the letters. These are the basic building blocks. They should be studied and practiced until they can be well made. Uniformity is the consistency of what was known to Zanerian students as the 5 Sís: Shape, Shade, Slant, Spacing, and Sureness. I would add one more: Size. All of these are individual elements to which you should dedicate practice time.

Less defined by any singular action and more by how the letterforms work together - grace, harmony, and contrast make great calligraphy [and penmanship] stand apart from the rest. Grace is the elegance of your letters, the curves of your lines, the absence of rough or misshapen strokes. The harmony or relationship between the forms is the balance of the letters and how the strokes work together, the consistent spacing, and parallel lines. The contrast is both of light to dark, and heavy to thin. The contrast of shades to hairlines adds depth, interest, and beauty.Ē
Truly, Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #7 on: May 30, 2022, 05:56:23 PM »
@Erica McPhee I hadnít originally thought to consider pen lifts at all in the beginning of my study since they werenít even mentioned in the materials I was using. It was only later, probably on this forum or YouTube, that Iíd even seen it, usually with Copperplate and Calligraphy (again, majuscule ďCĒ.)  Iíd assumed that it was used because of the predominantly shaded downstrokes in those styles. Later, I too, discovered that there were various schools of thought on the practice. I spent a year learning UNSHADED shapes and letters before I even got a pointed pen.  Figured it would be best not to complicate an already difficult skill for me with shading Ö it was only then that I learned that miniscule ďtĒ and ďdĒ were even executed with pen lifts!  For now, those are the only conscious lifts Iíve done, but I will definitely give this some consideration moving forward. 

As for fingernail glides, I believe Iíd encountered another old school penman on this fairly early on. It made a huge difference to be disabused of this!  Iíd been studiously attempting to glide on the nail which didnít work nearly as well as the flesh of the pinky (and ring finger). 

Tensing shoulders! Yes. YES!  Iíve always had this issue, mainly playing music (are you still studying the cello?  ;D), and it has dogged me with the handwriting!  Hard habit to break.  Fortunately, having completely starting over learning a proper hand grip, my hand is completely relaxed. I never would have thought it possible to write for three hours without pain or stress when first beginning my study.

 Iím always honored to receive tips and comments from you, and in addition you've now vouchsafed some sneak previews from your book.  Wow, thank you!  ;)
« Last Edit: May 30, 2022, 10:23:55 PM by Zivio »
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #8 on: May 30, 2022, 06:05:04 PM »
I am inspired from reading your journey.  I wished I was as disciplined as you are when I first started. Iíve always expected immediate results after just a few days of practice. It is now 10+ yrs and I am still learning.
@InkyFingers

Well Ö I, too, have suffered from expecting, maybe not immediate results, but certainly hoping to have progressed more quickly. Iíve often had long moments of despair and seeming setbacks on the journey.  Are you familiar with Carol Dwekís  Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success?  You can find a brief summary of Growth Mindset vs Fixed Mindset here:  https://fs.blog/carol-dweck-mindset/   For most of my life Iíve suffered under the Fixed Mindset bugaboo, but decided not to give up practicing the handwriting, even though I donít believe I have any natural aptitude for it and have suffered frustrations.

I started learning Spencerian in September 2020 using the Mott Media reprints of the Spencerian Theory and copy books available on Amazon. I used the first year simply to learn the letter forms and letters using fountain pen and no shading. At the one-year mark I acquired my first pointed pen which Iíve been using almost exclusively for the last eight months.  Iím currently at 640 elapsed hours of study (yes, I keep track) so itís unlikely Iíll get 10,000 hours in my remaining lifetime.
 
Besides the Mott Media reprints, a most valuable companion has been Michael and Debra Sullís Learning to Write Spencerian Script.  Iíve also supplemented my study with posts from this forum, The New Spencerian Compendium, Zanerís Lessons in Ornamental Penmanship, bits and pieces from The Business Educator, YouTube and Instagram contributors and anywhere else I can find new ideas.

I have to say Iíve been extremely reluctant to share any personal examples on this forum Ö but since you asked so nicely ... :D   To be honest, Iím often daunted by the beauty of examples Iíve seen here, but my wife reminds me often that ďcomparison is the thief of joy.Ē  However, Iíve recently been inspired by others who have been honest about their struggles and how long these skills take to acquire, so here you go! 
« Last Edit: May 30, 2022, 10:26:12 PM by Zivio »
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #9 on: May 30, 2022, 11:25:09 PM »
A great little discussion on Pen Lifting started by @InkyFingers in regard to business writing.
Truly, Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2022, 01:00:43 AM »
A great little discussion on Pen Lifting started by @InkyFingers in regard to business writing.

Thanks for the link to this topic!  Very instructive and has given me a lot to think about.  I've stumbled upon doing a few lifts on longer words to reposition my hand somewhat, but want to experiment a bit more with some of the things mentioned in that previous topic.
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Offline jeanwilson

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2022, 08:11:34 AM »
There are about 5 different things to talk about from your most recent posts.
Before I launch into them -
please tell us if you are writing spontaneous thoughts - on your practice pages - just letting the text flow spontaneously from your thoughts of the moment.
Or - are you writing text - where you have to remember specific words.

Or do you do some of both - if so - what do you notice (if anything) about the difference between the two?
Is there anything like *target fixation* happening?

Also - confirm what your goal is?
As I recall, you want to adopt Spencerian for *everyday* penmanship.

If that is correct - are you still going back and forth - using your regular penmanship when you are not doing your timed practice
 - or do you use Spencerian when you are adding an item to the grocery list, for example?
Can you guess where this line of question is headed?

Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2022, 01:18:55 PM »
@jeanwilson

please tell us if you are writing spontaneous thoughts - on your practice pages - just letting the text flow spontaneously from your thoughts of the moment.

Up until just a few days ago, my practice has been drills, many specific letters, and then duplicating single words from Sulls' Learning to Write Spencerian Script.  I had decided that a word-at-a-time practice wasn't contributing, necessarily, to learning word spacing or being able to produce attractive sentences. The sample you see is my second day of attempting to write spontaneously, as if composing a letter -- sometimes a random line or a few words from lyrics in music I hear playing.

Or do you do some of both - if so - what do you notice (if anything) about the difference between the two?
Is there anything like *target fixation* happening?

I haven't been practicing the spontaneous writing long enough to make this observation. I did see a missed letter in a word in the sample page.  In my previous "single words" practices, I do note that focused much more attention and intention on making the letter shapes as accurately as possible. In my "fluency practice," I'd decided that I wasn't going to fret so much about letter shapes, but work on smoothness and rhythm of pen technique and trying to keep those 5 items as present as possible while doing so. It has been challenging.  I had once read a book about music practice and relaxation -- it is so easy when practicing music to get tensed up about "not making mistakes," that the music becomes hindered. There was a really fun practice technique that said to imagine that you are in a universe where the beauty of a musical performance is presented by how relaxed the performer is and that incorrect notes or other things we consider "mistakes" have zero import. This is similar to the concept of what I'm trying to do with the writing -- suspend criticism of the letter shapes and instead pretend that the beauty comes from relaxed, rhythmic pen technique.

Also - confirm what your goal is?
As I recall, you want to adopt Spencerian for *everyday* penmanship.

Correct.  "Everyday penmanship" meaning correspondence to loved ones and acquaintances ... the desire to keep alive handwritten letters and the history and art of this once ubiquitous and beautiful practice.  Hoping one day my hand will compliment, and not detract from, the sentiments of my correspondence.

If that is correct - are you still going back and forth - using your regular penmanship when you are not doing your timed practice
 - or do you use Spencerian when you are adding an item to the grocery list, for example?

To be honest, with computer technology I find very little reason to hand write anything. I do enjoy journaling and have been keyboarding entries, yet would love to incorporate Spencerian into my personal journals one day should I pick up enough fluency. My near-term goal is to improve enough to where I may replace my personal daily handwriting practice by actual mailed letters ... what a concept!  ;D  Outside of pen practice, our household is virtually paperless, but we do have a little glass picture frame with erasable ink markers for leaving reminders to each other.  I have used Spencerian for that, usually few words at a time.

Can you guess where this line of question is headed?

Hmm ... my guess is that reverting back to one's "regular penmanship" may be an impediment or distraction to learning a new way of writing?  My "regular penmanship" is execrable -- see "before" sample of my writing. I affected a horribly tense "caveman grip" with results looking like they were written with a lump of coal, and hand stress after only short periods of writing. I was very much attracted to Spencerian because of the descriptions of pen grip and whole arm movements so different from what I'd every employed. I figured I could start over completely as though I were back in kindergarten.  Setting frustrations I've experienced aside, this is the first time since I started that I pulled out that "before" page to look at ... wow!  While I'm not at the level I'd like to be (is anyone? ... well, maybe @Ken Fraser   ;) ) I guess there has been improvement.

Looking forward to the "5 different things ..."   Do tell! 
« Last Edit: May 31, 2022, 01:23:53 PM by Zivio »
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Offline Erica McPhee

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2022, 01:40:18 PM »
BTW, I forgot to say, your work looks beautiful!  ;D
Truly, Erica
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Offline Zivio

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Re: Handwriting fluency tips - feedback?
« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2022, 04:53:52 PM »
BTW, I forgot to say, your work looks beautiful!  ;D

Thank you @Erica McPhee! As you and likely everyone here on the forum knows, the maker sees the flaws, but I hadn't looked at that "before" sample I shared until today. I've had a long way to go with my writing just to get to "even," so I'm feeling a bit more encouraged.
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