Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Am I an Old Dog?

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Over the next few weeks, I'll be conducting a little experiment to see if there's any truth to that statement.

For the purposes of this experiment, we will, of course, have to make some factual assumptions that don't necessarily comport with reality. For example, (a) I'm not a dog, and (b) I'm not really old.

By now you're proably wondering, "what is this new trick?" The answer: Penmanship. Ever since I was a child, my handwriting has been the subject of much derision. In elementary school, I routinely received the politely euphemistic grade of "N" (for "Needs Improvement") in the subject. My parents, ever the optimists, eagerly prepared me for a career in medicine. To their chagrin, I went to law school instead. Throughout my career, my assistants insisted upon additional insurance for optical coverage to repair the damage my illegibile scribbling caused to their eyesight.

Fortunately for me, and my law partners, that all changed when I discovered fountain pens. I'll save the story of how I got started down the path from respectable local barrister to proprietor of The Pear Tree Pen Company for another entry. For now, suffice it to say that fountain pens are irrefutably responsible for those small improvements to my handwriting in the past few years. I readily admit, however, that my handwriting would likely still merit the grade of "N."

Last week, though, I took a step that I hope will help bring that grade out of the basement. I enrolled in a series of classes by noted handwriting expert and instructor, Kate Gladstone. While I have been familiar with her work for a few years, I had never seriously considered enrolling in a handwriting improvement program. But she recently began auctioning her services on eBay and I do love a good auction (Maybe one day I'll tell the story of the Salvation Army, George the Giraffe and the Children of Washtenaw County. But you have to ask nicely and promise not to tell the I.R.S.). So I placed a ridiculously low bid for a one-hour lesson and, lo and behold, a few short hours later, I was declared the auction winner.

Yesterday, I finished my first session, which was conducted by telephone. I can honestly say that I got far more than I bargained for in the auction.

Kate (whose eBay handle is KateGladstoneItalicLady) reviewed a sample of my handwriting I had previously scanned and sent to her by email. She graciously told me that my handwriting isn't actually all that bad for short stretches. The problem, it seems, is that my form deteriorates as my writing speeds up or as I get tired. So one of the things we worked on was ways to be more consistent.

I realize that handwriting repair is not something that can happen in a single one-hour session. It is something that I'm going to have to work on and practice. I'll continue to consult with Kate over the next few weeks, sending her handwriting samples as we progress. I'll do this publically, too, posting examples of the scans I send to Kate, so you can let me know if you detect any improvement over time. So, let's see if this old dog can't learn a new thing or two about handwriting.

If anyone's reading this thing, I'd love to hear your comments, both about this experiment and the blog in general.

Thanks for stopping by.

James Partridge

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