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Q&A with Aaron, December 2019

By December 9, 2019Writing

Do you think penmanship is antiquated?

If you’re asking if I think penmanship is a talent that we don’t need anymore or is useless in today’s world, definitely not.

Though, on the other hand, if you’re asking if I think penmanship is being phased out of our daily lives, the results of which are largely negative, and that the general perception of penmanship is antiquated? Then yes.

Personally, I take pride in my penmanship. I do not have the best handwriting, but I try to improve it on a regular basis. I enjoy writing in cursive and taking my time to write something by hand whenever I get the chance.

In fact, because the divide between penmanship and our usual-day-to-day has become so great, I have realized with increasing clarity, the role that penmanship plays in our lives. It’s not just putting words on paper, but it’s forcing your mind to think at a slower pace so that your hand can keep up. Those people I know with particularly impressive penmanship have certain personality traits that I also admire, and while I don’t know if there exists a causal relationship between the two, I know from personal experience that focusing time on improving my penmanship has made me more attentive to detail, more thoughtful, and more contemplative about what I spend my time writing about.

Euclid said: “Handwriting is a spiritual designing, even though it appears by means of a material instrument.”

Think about the last time you received a hand-written letter (not a birthday card, or something small, but an actual letter, if you ever have). Did the writer have good penmanship? What does good penmanship mean? To me, if they wrote by hand instead of typing, it shows they took extra time out of their day to think about what they were writing, and also exert themselves to make it look good.

Fennel Hudson said: “I take pride in using fountain pens. They represent craftsmanship and a love of writing. Biros, on the other hand, represent the throwaway culture of modern society, which exists on microwave ready-meals and instant coffee.”

I believe penmanship should be taught in schools, along with cursive, as I learned it. Not because I think that “back in my day” was better. Nor because I think that having a foundation of good penmanship is necessary to appreciate typing and other forms of communication.

No, I believe penmanship should be kept alive because the tying of the imagination with the movement of the hand across the paper, the forcing of our mind to slow down in our hyper-stimulated world, and the attention to detail are all things I believe we desperately need today.

Why do you write on Quora? What’s in it for us, the writers?

I’m not sure about everyone else, but I have found that the best way to constantly get new ideas and fresh perspectives to use in my own writing is to write every day.

While I have a personal blog, a number of novels I’m working on, and a notebook I write nonsense in, I have found that Quora is one of the best ways to write every day consistently.

I enjoy sharing my ideas, and my perspective, sure, but being able to write a short blurb of a couple paragraphs about a different topic related to writing is a nice break that keeps me thinking, but doesn’t bog me down in the creative process.

I think of it like when I used to go home from rugby practice and then play four square, it gives me a break from the routine of practice, but it’s still physical activity that keeps me fit and agile.

Sometimes, as a writer, it gets hard to just “get in the groove” of writing. Some days I just don’t feel like it, other times writer’s block is my companion and other days I just don’t have the time.

Writing on Quora consistently has been a reliable way to not only stay on the horse and keeping my nib wet, but it has been one of the best ways to get me into the mood to write on my larger projects.

Granted, Quora is not unique in this regard. There are other sites and mediums that allow you to write every day, but for me, Quora seems to have found that itch and scratched it.

Even if I don’t have a particularly groundbreaking opinion on a certain question, merely reading the opinions and advice of others is enough to help me form my own opinion on a topic I didn’t think was important. Also, just scrolling through the questions gives me the chance to consider what their answers might be, should be or could be, even if I don’t actually answer them myself.

Writing something, anything, every day is great for any writer. It doesn’t matter what you write about, or where you write it, as long as you’re getting something onto paper (or screen) that keeps your brain sweating.

While Quora, specifically, might not give you any benefit directly for spending time writing answers, for me it has been a prime location to pour words onto a page regularly, professionally, and (most importantly) enjoyably.

What is the ideal reading speed?

Reading speed is a lot like IQ: nobody cares, it really doesn’t affect your day-to-day life, and anybody who brags about it isn’t someone you want to be working with.

The ideal reading speed, in my mind, is the speed at which you comprehend the most from what you are reading. Obviously there are those that can comprehend the same reading very quickly as someone else who reads slowly, but how does that comparison help you in any way? If you both get the same information, learn the same things, but one of you reads slightly faster, what’s the big difference? At the end of the day, it might save them a couple of minutes.

Is there a specific reason you are concerned about your reading speed? Is it a job requirement? Or is it because you are comparing yourself to your friends and coworkers and found that you read slower than them?

One of those is a good reason to work on your reading speed, the other is not.

Self-improvement is always a worthy goal. I’m not saying you shouldn’t improve your reading speed if you have the time and the desire to do so. By all means, practice and improve if you want. But if you don’t want to, then don’t, I can list a dozen different things right now that would be a better use of your time.

Nobody missed out on big life events or lost a career because they read slightly slower than everybody else.

You should always be more concerned about what you are pulling out of the text, instead of how fast you are making through each page. Besides cramming for a university exam, or some professional deadlines, I can’t think of any examples in which extreme speed reading is useful. And in most of those cases, the task can be simplified by a more useful life skill: organization.

Aaron J. Webber

Author Aaron J. Webber

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