Weekly writing Challenge: A Lost Art

There are so many lost arts such as building dry rock walls that have been lost or almost lost to society. I have a friend who is a dry rock wall builder having done his apprenticeship in the UK. There are not that many walls of this type left in existence and almost none currently being constructed so he is working as a builder, his skill virtually lost to the world.

Another art that has been largely lost is writing. I don’t mean writing as in telling a story, journalistic pieces and the like which are now  computer generated. No I mean the art of using a pen. When I started school we used lead pencils as the teachers considered  us too small and inexperienced to manage nib and ink. When we had learnt the correct method of holding the pencil, a skill I never mastered and to this day place two fingers along the shaft, we progressed to the fountain pen. This did not feature for long in my school life as it was soon replaced by the BIC biro, the only available ball point pen in the country town in which I lived.

We wrote everything. Diaries, journals, address books, autograph books, doodling pads, scribble pads, letters, notes, manuscripts, account books, ledgers, invoices, receipts – you name it, it was written with a pen.

The pen itself became a status symbol. A Parker fountain pen was the most prized possession but other ball point pens , such as the paper mate, became sort after. The pen had an emotional side to it – the flow and the silkiness of the ink, the feel of the shaft in your hand all made a difference to the amount of enjoyment you gained from the writing process.

Now I can barely write. I can still hold the pen in my odd fashion but the movement on the paper is inept, inexperienced. My writing is difficult to read. I attempt to write as fast as I can type with the resultant writing illegible. I write next to nothing these days and this lack of practice shows when I do attempt to perform the lost art. I do notes on my phone or the computer. Spreadsheets have replaced account books. Word processing has replaced pieces of paper. Emails have supplanted letters; cheques replaced by online banking. Address books replaced by computer versions. The only thing that I write these days is the odd card and these too are being replaced by e cards and the like.

I don’t think this is happening to only me. In fact I know it isn’t as they are talking of decreasing postal delivery services from weekly to only a couple of times a week. Most bills are sent via the net and with people no longer writing letters the postie has little in his bag to deliver.

My nephews from an early age were computerised as  a requirement of their schools. Even my nieces many years before the boys were thought of had to choose between a computer stream for lessons or standard writing. They both chose computer but in those days this was innovative, nowadays commonplace.

There is an element of danger in this trend. They’ve covered the possibility of your own personal computer or phone malfunction by the development of the cloud. What will happen though if we lose power and not just in a temporary fashion. We would be stymied. An entire life could be lost and with the lost art of writing it will make it difficult to start again from scratch.




About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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27 Responses to Weekly writing Challenge: A Lost Art

  1. Good heavens! A fountain pen! I was stuck with steel nib and inkwell unitl I got to high school, and even then, biros were forbidden. These days I use a Parker biro, part of a fountain pen/biro set my parents gave me, and they’ve been dead for 30+ years. I love it, it’s smooth, and comfortable to hold. But then we know I’m a dinosaur.


    • You are so lucky to still have your parker biro. I had a Parker racing car green fountain pen/biro set given to me as a farewell present when we moved from the country town we lived in when I was eleven. I treasured it for years but it is no longer with me. Did you make skeletons by writing your name in the ink on one side of a folded piece of paper then folding it blotting it on the other side thus making a skeleton. What simple pleasures we had.


  2. M-R says:

    I hold my pen strangely, too, Irene: fold your fingers over into a fist, so that the thumb is left sticking up … then slot your writing implement between the thumb and index finger.
    I don’t write any more, either – and it distresses me. I liked my writing. 😦


  3. fictionfitz says:

    Reblogged this on Writing Out Loud and commented:
    Lost power equals at least one loss soul in NH


  4. lorilschafer says:

    I’ve heard that some schools are actually considering eliminating teaching handwriting altogether. How scary is that! Then we’d really be helpless without our machines…


  5. Sherri says:

    Oh no…just sent you a comment and it didn’t go through! Oh I do hope no more troubles like this. I was saying what a great post this is and how I remember writing with a fountain pen but because I’m left handed I would come home with ink up and down my wrist and hand. Great post this irene bringing up some very valid points about the way we write (or don’t write) today and the way things are so very different for the young. I hope this goes through…


    • That happened to me also yesterday trying to send a comment to Pat. It just wouldn’t go but I was using an ipad and changed to the computer and it worked. These things are so frustrating at times.
      People that were left handed were forced to write right handed when I went to school. It must have been real torture for them. I can just visualise you covered in ink. An old fashioned tatoo. Your poor Mum.
      At least Sherri, the means may have changed but writing as a form of communicating seems to be thrivig. I doubt that everyone that blogs would have written long hand the snippets we have the pleasure of reading and if they did we would certainly not have seen them.
      Cheers my friend. Irene 🙂


  6. I remember in my 30’s I bought myself a nice ball point pen. I mainly used ti to write checks to pay my bills and few people saw it but I admired it as a status symbol.


  7. TanGental says:

    Ah writing! Mine was and is grotty. My mum gave me a primary school report of mine as part of my 40th birthday memory book: to quote ‘Writing – test grade C – teacher’s comment – I don’t know how he did it’. But in fact I still write; a writing course I went on (Birkbeck College, part of the LSE for those in the UK – definitely worth a look) a few years back had us writing non stop for ten minutes. As a result I started a written journal and try and write every day. The writing skill hasn’t improved but there’s something about slowing the thinking down to the speed I can write at reasonably legibly that helps capture some ideas that might otherwise slip. And the journal is great for those of us who’s memory isn’t quite as stiletto sharp as it once was.


  8. Lisa Reiter says:

    I had trouble writing a cheque yesterday and realise it must be a while since I picked up a pen. I still love using a fountain pen and do hand-write letters. It’s an interesting dilemma this one and a great discussion post!


    • Thanks Lisa. It is something that seems to have crept up on many of us and not until the writing is awkward do you realise. I’m glad you still write letters. I had one friend who used to always write and I loved getting her letters. They were a joy. I discovered that she wrote to everyone in a similar way, not copies but letters pertinent to their friendship, their current affairs and interests. If only I had them all they would make a wonderful reading


  9. What a wonderful trip down memory lane! I was a metal nib and inkwell gal for a number of years- and had my pigtails dunked in the inkwell on a regular basis. I also have problems writing by hand unless I practice a lot, but think of our children. They will NEVER know the job and drudgery of writing by hand! I still send of hand written letters occasionally, but never know if the recipients can even read them!


    • LOL. You have bought to mind my mother and letters that she gets from some of her old girlfriends (ranging from 80 to late 90s). Some are just difficult to read with spidery shaky writing whilst others you have to combine with decreasing mental faculties and you definitely have trouble reading them. I love handwritten letters but I never get them and am hopeless at responding. Love the vision of the dunked hair.


  10. joannesisco says:

    I was really alarmed when I heard that schools have stopped teaching cursive writing. It really will become a lost art.
    For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved pens, pencils, crayons, and markers. I still have a large container full of coloured pens and stacks of paper that I use regularly. I love to write, I love my handwriting, and I still prefer pen to paper when I’m trying to develop an idea.


    • That’s great that you still use the art of writing. I love the implements and have a great variety but rarely write anything these days. I had no idea that they were no longer teaching cursive writing. It really will become a lost art.
      There are three shops that I love being lost in – a stationary office store, a book store and a linen store. I could wander the aisles of paper clips, pens and paper happily for hours.


  11. Pingback: Analog:Weekly Discover Challenge | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)

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