Our handwriting is an expression of our use. Obviously if we use a lot of excessive tension then we might be pressing harder with the pen, or we might having difficulty in controlling the outcome and have a sprawling handwriting, or the tightness in the hand and arm and neck might make us write in tiny tight letters.
With the widespread use of computers, tablets and mobile phones people do less handwriting and are developing new habitual ways of using their hands and wrists. When they go back to the pen and paper they initially feel that they don’t know how to write the way they use to.
When I work with people on their use of pen and paper we first pay attention to the free poise of the head and neck and back. I will then just have a light observing hand on the head and neck and ask the student to write something, their name or a short sentence. Immediately we both become aware that there is too much habitual tension and the neck tightens.
I then suggest that we start again from scratch and this time I will put the pen in their hand, asking them not to grip, I will then move the hand to the place to start writing, and ask them to let me move their arm to ‘write’. We will simply start with a straight line, and gradually repeat this process moving on to a squiggly line, then loops, or sharp up and down movements. As I am making the movement the student can attend to not tensing their neck.
This way they realise that it is possible to write without producing the habitual muscles tension in the hand, arm and right up to the neck.
One of my students who suffered very badly from repetitive strain injury (RSI) was in so much pain she couldn’t even write the Christmas cards.
First I asked her to write her name. She tensed up and it caused her excruciating pain. Then we went through this procedure and she was able to put pen to paper without the pain. Next I suggested that she would write her name again.
Something extraordinary happened. Her name began with G. When she first wrote her name she wrote it the letter G ended with a rounded loop. After we had gone though the procedure to give her the experience of writing without the habitual muscle tension, she wrote the G with a straight cross bar at the end of the letter. She exclaimed: “Oh my god, I haven’t written G like that since I was in my early teens!”
I said that her habit pattern must have been that old.
Well, that wasn’t all. When I then suggested that perhaps she could now write her whole name including her surname, but again thinking of keeping her neck free and not gripping the pen, the an even more extraordinary thing happened. She wrote her maiden name!
Her experience shows that it is possible to inhibit and unlearn habit patterns that have been ingrained for a very long time. She had thought she used to write her name like that until she was perhaps 14 or 15. She was nearly 40.
We did conclude the lesson by seeing if she would be able to keep the tension habit out of the way when deciding to write her full married name. And she succeeded. Hopefully, everyone got a Christmas card from her that year after all.