The Benefits of Messy Handwriting

When I talk to school groups, I sometimes show pages from my notebooks, or bits and pieces of paper where I’ve jotted down story ideas. And in doing so, I often make the point that neat handwriting is a very good thing. Because sometimes – quite often, really – when I come later to read what it is that I’ve written down, I find that I can’t, that the idea I remember as being so very brilliant is in fact a meaningless series of squiggles. Or I get to the shops and discover I can’t decipher half the items on my list.

But sometimes things work the other way. Sometimes having terrible handwriting leads, accidentally, to all sorts of surprising connections. In poetry workshops, I’m always talking about making words jostle up against words they wouldn’t normally hang around with. And sometimes this is what happens when I try to make sense of my own writing.

Sometimes thick black marker on the fridge admonishes me to **EAT THE YEARS!!!!**

Sometimes a note in my diary reminds me to “Copy the past into my notebook”.

Sometimes a scrap of paper long buried on my desk tells me “Dogs should have electric cots and vests – VERY IMPORTANT”

Sometimes this is how poems and ideas begin to grow. And for all my Book Week warnings about the importance of good penmanship, I have to admit that this is how I like it.

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