Pens and Pencils – When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

72-alien-102914_14 computer keyboard

I learned to touch type the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Even though the New York city schools, at that point in time — heaven only knows what they teach these days — required every college-bound student to take a year of touch typing, that wasn’t enough for my mother. Typing wasn’t optional for her. She typed to my young eyes at a million words per minute. As far as I could tell, she never made a mistake. No white-out for her!

She believed typing was a necessary life skill, right up there with ironing. We disagreed about the ironing. I hated it. Still hate it. I’ve actually thrown away clothing rather than iron it. Oddly, though, while I was serious about collecting vintage and antique dolls, I spent days repairing, hand-washing, then ironing tiny, frilly dresses, coats, and hats. Life is full of paradox.

I wouldn’t iron for myself. When I married Garry, there was a codicil to our vows: for better or worse, but no ironing. Fortunately, Garry irons well and sometimes, if I grovel and prostrate myself, he will iron something for me.

typewriter with glass sides -2

After I learned touch typing, I never wrote anything by hand. Except notes on cards. Those could hardly be called substantive. Lists. I write lists by hand. On paper. I have a little notebook I carry with me in which I jot down information I might need when I don’t have a computer nearby. Almost everything in my world lives somewhere on my computer or worse, online, on somebody else’s server. A single day without WiFi — or worse, minus electricity — and my world would grind to a full stop.

I admit it. I’m hooked.

I don’t have a handwriting anymore. I make weird errors when I write by hand, even weirder than the mistakes I make on a keyboard. I omit words and letters. I don’t leave space between words, sentences, and paragraphs. My writing slants up or downhill. As often as not, I get to the edge of the page in the middle of a word. Not the kind of place where a hyphen can be inserted. My words begin crawling up (or down) what ought to be a margin.

Fifty years ago, I forswore writing by hand. I doubt I could go back to writing by hand even if I wanted to, even if, by some horrible magical, nuclear, dystopian, catastrophic end-of-the-world scenario, all keyboards disappeared.

There’s history here. I fell madly, passionately in love with computers the moment I met one for the first time. It was 1982. Although I had earlier encountered word processors and of course, the big computer at my alma mater, this was my first personal, face-to-face with one of the Big Guys. Of course now, anyone’s smart phone can do more than that giant mainframe could do … but back then, it was a miracle.

We never forget that moment of first love, right? I had begun work with the development team of DB-1 at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel. I was given a work station networked with the university’s main frame. When my finger caressed those keys, my mind screamed the message:


I’ve never looked back. I never will.

19 thoughts on “NEVER LOOK BACK

  1. I had to learn to type with big old typewriters. I loathed it. Now I am grateful for the lessons I had. I used to sit in the room and type pictures with the x and o keys with 1 finger. The teacher knew I hated it and never bothered me. I have very small fingers and couldn’t press the keys down – at least that was my excuse and I am sticking to it.


  2. Hi, Marilyn,
    I guess I am on of those people who still love using great pens with flowing ink. After taking a class untitled The Artist Way, I have been Journaling 3 pages a day. For me, I can really go deep and notice patterns of themes, feelings etc. I can sketch, show feelings in my style of penmanship and write all over the dang page. This is for my personal journaling. For blogging, typing is the only way.
    My father was a typist in the Marines in wwII, so I too took typing at our local high school in 7th grade over the summer.
    We had a loud clunky Underwood and when I took it off to college I kept every one up in the dorm with my late night term papers.
    I don’t mind ironing. But don’t hold that against me.


    • I used to love pens and drawing. It just lost me to computers. And my hands got arthritic. I couldn’t do that much writing … I probably couldn’t even hold a pen longer than a few minutes anymore. But I admire those who do it. And you can come and iron my stuff ANY time 🙂


  3. Gone are the childhood days when we would get reprimanded for not caring enough about having a good hand-writing! Kids these days are blissfully ignorant of the art of writing and signing papers!


    • That’s the way the world has gone round. It would be nice if all the changes in technology didn’t mean that something would get lost amidst the changes, but something is always lost when something else is gained. Hopefully the trade-off is worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to have excellent handwriting. Now I can barely read it myself! I can type faster than I can write, so I think impatience is my problem when writing by hand 🙂


    • That’s probably true of me, too. And I’ve never been able to hold a pen for long without my hand cramping. I think I don’t hold it the way I should. I’m not sure what “should” is.


  5. I used to enjoy the feeling of writing by hand. I don’t do it nearly as much now (joint pain became a real problem before I turned 30), but sometimes I have an idea for s story or a scene, and I can’t get to a computer with a full-size keyboard, so I grab paper and writing implement, and I scribble a few pages’ worth of sentences. (I know how to do math without a calculator, too. I’m just full of old-fashioned/useless skills. 🙂 ) I love computers, though. (Typewriters — meh. I never liked typewriters.) I CAN function in a pre-keyboard world, but I don’t WANT to.

    I do all the ironing and other laundry-related work in this house.


  6. Take it a step further, when’s the last time I mailed someone a letter, handwritten or not? I think I can still write. Isn’t that like riding a bicycle?


  7. I typed my first thank you note to a teacher when I was in the 4th grade. I used my aunt’s old underwood typewriter, although not as old as your Royal, but almost. I fell in love with typing then. I took typing in the 7th grade and haven’t looked back since. In my hey day of typing and testing I was doing well over 200 words a minute on the old electric typewriters (prior to the IBM selectrics). I really flew on those. Anyhow, I agree no going back. Writing is an art form and I haven’t practiced that in years.


    • I learned calligraphy and used to have real vellum paper. I could do Italic and other simple calligraphy … and Elvish. I used to do all the invitations to our Fall of Sauron parties with my special pens.

      Now? I can’t figure out what I meant to say on the grocery list. I doubt there is any hope for going back. Not that I really want to. I’m pretty happy on a keyboard.


  8. I, too, prefer a keyboard to a pen and paper, but primarily because my handwriting is so bad that I can’t read even my own handwriting even minutes after I’ve written it. I’ve posted before about cursive, so maybe, even though I wasn’t intending to respond to this prompt, I’ll recycle one of my previous posts on this topic.


    • I think my penmanship has deteriorated to cryptography because I haven’t used it in so many years. I actually (in a former life) owned a set of calligraphy pens and could do a decent italic and a couple of other fonts. Now? It’s just gibberish. Use it or lose it!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. I am with you all the way and really only write for a quick note or a shopping list. Why write by hand when you have so many computers and keyboards. Ironing – no problem. Mr. Swiss irons, I iron, my No. 2 son irons (I don’t think his fiancee would be happy if he didn’t). Only Son No. 1 doesn’t iron, but I have not taught him yet (he is autistic). I made my own clothes for 15 years and then you have to iron every seam you do.

    Isn’t it a lovely feeling when you write with the computer, you are almost one with the machine. It is something spiritual I think, in the land of the bytes. I also loved the feeling from day one, and I was just putting in orders, doing export documentation and bank documents for L/C, nothing special, but the feeling in the fingers is not to be compared.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We were the first generation of geeks. Younger kids grew up with computers and don’t (most of them, anyway) think much about them. Computers are there, like televisions and the refrigerator. For us, it was the beginning of a new, exciting world. The idea of never needing a piece of carbon paper again … being able to correct mistakes without white-out … Being able to write, edit, rewrite and print … rearrange text in a new sequence. It was mind – blowing and I don’t think I’ve recovered yet. It’s STILL mind-blowing. The few authors who claim they write by hand or on an old typewriter … all I can think is “WHY??”

      Because this IS a better way, on every possible level.

      I still won’t iron 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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