My handwriting loops like a cowgirl’s lasso whenever I’ve fallen deep into a story. It starts small and expands until the letters are no longer contained within the lines on the page. Grammar and writing rules are also lost— they vanish first, which is no surprise since we haven’t dated long.
But in the beginning, my letters are carefully crafted as if I’m back in penmanship class. Is penmanship even taught these days? I don’t remember my youngest son ever spending an afternoon or ten minutes attempting to execute the ideal F or Q. He was, however, able to write a computer program by the time he was ten.
For me, first grade was all about making the alphabet and forming words. My execution got sloppy by the end of second grade. But thanks to the arrival of cursive, the following year, I regained control. I filled page after page with capital letters and their lowercase partners. My penmanship grade was based on the neatness of execution and how well the letters matched the standardized chart posted above the chalkboard.
My youngest son’s handwriting is a hodgepodge of scratches, which— I’m happy to say— he’s never liked. Before he went off to build his life in Asia, he hired a calligrapher to create a signature for him. I thought it was cool and wondered what the person would come up with for me. But lately, I’ve wondered how my son’s signature would’ve evolved, if he’d taken the extra time to hang out with those cursive letters.
By high school, my penmanship and signature was solid until my friends and I decided to rebel. Baby-step rebels, we were. Unlike our peers who went wild with alcohol, drugs and sex, we devoted our time to figuring out different ways to make vowels and how to make each consonant, at the beginning of a sentence, stand out. Four years later, my writing style was a combination of printing and cursive. My ex said it was unprofessional, so did my father— it was the only thing they ever agreed on. But I love it.
My signature has thick stubborn roots with a J and an L and my last name Wade. Sometimes for legal purposes I’ve needed to write my full name Jocosa Lynn Wade. Those moments unsettle me. A pause is always required, in order for me to figure out how to make the pen flow with letters I normally don’t use in my signature. The first time this situation arose was the day I realized my signature and handwriting are uniquely mine.
I believe a writer’s voice develops like penmanship. It takes time. And with enough patience and persistence, it becomes part of the writer’s rhythmic body and flows the same way ink trails from a fountain pen across the page. My voice is still in development. And I’m happy about this stage. Development means exploration and risk-taking and the challenge of not censoring. Yeppir, I’m in for the long haul. Can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.