How can I improve my handwriting ability?
I really like writing encouraging letters to my friends every so often. Writing them by hand makes them feel a lot more personal, but I am always hesitant to do so because my handwriting has always been terrible.
I know the only way to get better is to practice, but my problem is that even when I take my time, it's still pretty ugly. As such, it doesn't seem to help because I'm just repeating the same, ugly characters.
How can I improve my handwriting ability? Are there any tools or methods that could help me learn good handwriting better or faster?
Note that I'm referring specifically to body text, not any fancy headlines or characters.
Just some extra pointers to try to break from bad habits, since I think the previous answers are pretty thorough.
Position the Paper Comfortably
- Pay attention to the position of the paper and modify it until you find the most comfortable position for you. Keeping the paper straight in front of you will force your wrist to strain and contort in order to be able to draw the characters. If you are right handed, for example, you might find that if you turn the paper 20 to 30 degrees counter clockwise it feels easier to write. Try to find your own sweet spot, which usually is the one in which the wrist is not bent nor compressed.
Release the Pressure!
- Do not grab the writing utensil as if your life would depend on it. If you grab it to strongly your hand muscles will be locked and they will not be able to do graceful relaxed curves. If you write for a while and you notice that your fingertips hurt or your hand cramps, then you are exerting too much pressure. Like when you are driving, singing, skating or biking, you have to be in control of your muscles, but they should not be locked. They should feel relaxed, loose and have freedom of movement.
Lighten Your Touch
- Play also with the position of your hand on your writing utensil. The tendency is to place the fingers very close to the tip, in order to have more control. This causes every single micro-movement to be registered in the paper, sort of like in an ECG. It also doesn't allow you to look at what you are writing. Try moving the finger tips a little further away from the tip of the writing utensil so you can see what you are doing. The shapes you draw will be also more relaxed and even.
- Don't try to draw the shapes too slowly either, since you will also end up registering a lot of micro-movements. Be more assertive and, like when driving, look at where you want your writing utensil to go as opposed to looking at its tip and tracking its path.
Consider Your Body Posture
- Pay attention to the joints of the hand, wrist and arm. Pay attention to which ones you use to write. If you are writing in a small piece of paper they will be most likely the finger joints, and perhaps a bit of the wrist, but if you are writing on a board they will be the joints of the whole arm. They are your writing instruments. They work almost like a set of compasses. Curves are easier to draw with them because of their anatomy. Use them to your advance to create graceful curves. Straight lines are harder. Something needs to be locked in place in order to draw straight lines. Try to think which muscles and joints you need to lock in order to get straight lines.
- Pay attention to the rhythm of your hand progressing down the line. Notice that it has to skip down the line, sort of like a toad, every few characters because they start getting out of reach. See if you are not doing this often enough causing your wrist and fingers to contort in order to be able to draw the characters.
Plant Your Forearm
- Do rest your hand on the paper. This gives your hand support. A floating hand is a shaky one. This is writing we are talking about, not heart surgery.
Calm Your Thoughts and Focus
- Slow down your mind. The mind dictates what the hand writes. In the modern times we are used to the speed of typing. When one types, words make it to the paper or screen in a very fast pace. When one writes, they make it to the paper at a slower pace. You have to dictate (think) more slowly, otherwise your hand will try to catch up with your rushing mind and make lots of mistakes trying to go too fast.
Strive for Perfectionism
- If you have bad habits you want to get rid off, don't be flexible with yourself. You know what they are and they bug you. They might be ugly characters, or slanted lines or uneven line ends. Don't allow yourself to make these mistakes sometimes justifying them with circumstances. If you want to get rid of them, then banish them forever. I have the bad habit of drawing a capital M that looks more like an envelope, for example. I dislike it very much. I draw it properly whenever I have the time, but I allow myself to draw the ugly M when I am in a rush. This means that I will never get rid of it because it is the default shape my brain uses if I am not paying close attention. It has spoiled many a Christmas card ("ENVELOPEerry Christmas!") and it will continue doing so until I stop being flexible with myself.
Find Your Own Styles & Preferences
- Create your own character shapes. It is your own handwriting. You don't have to follow the way other people write. Create your own, so you feel identified with your characters. As long as you are happy with them and they are recognizable, you are fine. My mother turns the dots over the lower case i into little circles, for example. I would never do this, but I have always found it interesting. I connect the bars of double lower Ts, for example, so they look like a single bar. A good example of a character that almost everybody writes in a different way is the "&" character. Have fun with your shapes and you are more bound to stick to them than if you learn them from stern angry teacher calligraphy courses.
Look for Inspiration
- You can also appropriate character shapes from other people's handwriting and mix them up with yours. They will work almost like tiny quotations or mementos intermingled with your daily affairs. I appropriated some characters from the handwriting of my favourite aunt, for example. Every time I use them, it brings her to my memory, which is nice. This might encourage you to draw the characters the way you want them to look.
Consider the Shapes Instead of What They Represent
- If you are stuck with a shape you cannot draw properly, turn the page upside down and try to draw it slowly, several times. This will force your brain to pay attention exclusively to the shape of the character, taking it out of context. It will not be a character anymore, but a shape. You will be surprised of how many interesting attributes of the character you discover (angles, proportion, rhythm) when you do this. This is just to "analyze" the character, though. You will have to practice it in its regular position until drawing it becomes second nature.