Is writing even writing anymore?

Writers are fussing about cursive again. Is this the end? Will be we able to read our historical documents? Our grandparents’ letters? How much does that matter?

I think the more interesting question is not whether we will use cursive when we write with pen and paper, but whether we will continue to write with pen and paper at all. Does our tactile, visual, and auditory experience shape our thoughts as we write? My instinct says so. I worry about what we could lose if we lose the lovely (to me) sensory experience of paper and ink.

As an experiment, I tried to compose this blog post on paper. I couldn’t do it. It turns out that to compose, I need to see my letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs clearly defined. I need to re-read them to myself over and over as I compose. I need to shuffle them sometimes, and re-read again. I need to see them in type, the way people will read them. I need to see the shape of what I am writing. A good piece of writing has a definite shape; to build that shape, I have to experience it as the reader will experience it. To build a piece of writing that can stand on its own, I need to see it as it will be seen.

Pen-and-paper writing feels very personal to me, like a diary entry or a letter. I can give it my stream of consciousness, I can use it to chat, but I cannot use it to compose clearly.

So now I wonder. Should I even call it writing anymore?

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