January 10th, 2005

kanji

2005: write on time

Remember learning to write? Your parents or teachers make you trace over the printed outlines of perfectly-formed letters time and time again until, after lines and lines of exercise-book pages, your shaky pencil shapes grow so close to the dotted letters that the deviations from the line can barely be seen. Eventually you're ready to write those same shapes without the safety-net of the dotted letters; and when you do so, your letters may well revert to being a little more uncertain, a little more irregular than they were previously. On the other hand, because there's no longer any underlying image to which to conform, it shows less when you do deviate from what is, after all, only someone else's ideal. You're free to form your letters in whatever way you choose. Eventually your printing becomes neater, and your handwriting settles into something fairly consistent, though it slowly shifts and changes over the years as you refine one bit or another; perhaps you try to neaten it, or make it more romantic, or make it more angular; perhaps you change the pen you use and your writing changes a little to reflect that; or perhaps it's not even conscious, perhaps the shapes of your writing shift like the ponderous movements of continents, and you don't even realise anything has changed until by chance you find a memo to yourself from 10 years ago and you can barely believe it's your writing. And, of course, it isn't; in so many ways, both physical and psychological, you're barely the same person now as you were then.

The only way to improve your handwriting is by practising, but only you know what sort of practice works best for you. Maybe tracing letter-outlines helps you, or maybe you prefer to just write and see what happens; maybe you practise in private where nobody can laugh at your mistakes, or maybe you find that writing to other people helps to motivate you to keep improving.

New Year is an arbitrary blip in the calendar, a milestone (or millstone) that's as meaningless as adult birthdays. But I still make New Year's Resolutions: I like to draw the faint outlines of where and what I want to be, so that later I can see how well my subsequent tracings match the suggested shapes; and I like the external accountability of bringing my progress (or lack of it) into the public eye. Sometimes, somewhere along the way, I have (consciously or otherwise) decided to follow different paths from those I laid out; this doesn't necessarily constitute failure, any more than deciding to write in italic script (perhaps because one prefers the look of it, or the feel of it under the pen) signals a failure to write in upright lettering. The important thing is to distinguish between lapses which damage the desired outcome (e.g. writing a 't' without its crosspiece might render it indistinguishable from an 'l', which would make the writing harder to read and hence make communication more difficult) and lapses which don't (e.g. whether your 'w' is a zigzag or two overlapping 'v's, there aren't really any other letters with which it could become confused). I leave the extension of the already over-stretched analogy as an exercise for the reader (and writer).

So how do the letters line up? Here are last year's resolutions, reproduced here with commentary.

Collapse )

And now this year's Resolutions, with more commentary. This year's are a complete ragbag of resolutions, and there are far too many of them, but I figure that if I aim at the stars, I might just hit a tree. I don't really expect anybody to read all this (though obviously you're all free to do so); I'm writing these out more for my own benefit than anybody else's.

Collapse )

I haven't really made any resolutions about friendships and relationships, or thoughts and feelings, because it's so hard to quantify things; however, for the sake of external accountability, I do intend to make more of an effort to keep in touch with old friends as well as meeting new ones, and I want to be more reliable about getting in touch with people when I've said I'll do so. I also want to get more of a grip on my self-image, but that's heading out of the realm of New Year's Resolutions and into cognitive therapy. If I think it won't be too navel-gazing, I may write about some of that here.