The note was from a friend, a new friendship just a year old, thanking me for the few birthday bits I’d taken over for her. Nothing special really, nothing note-worthy in these days of high-speed messaging and digitally convenient communication. It arrived by post, though we see each other regularly enough, and it was utterly delightful.
My father used to be fairly pointed on the necessity for thank you notes. To my shame this is something I’ve allowed to slip with my own boys. Why sit down and write when you can just pick up the phone? But there was an extra offering there in my friend’s note. I realised I’d no idea up until then what her handwriting looked like. Save for a handful of pals, those steadfast friendships rooted in classroom days, the same is true of most of my friends. Of course there are Christmas cards etc. but there’s not usually much there to get your teeth into. That said, I’d know my mother’s handwriting from a word alone. A fingerprint I can decipher but you might not.
My youngest sister died recently. Two weeks before her 30th birthday. I wear her jewellery, listen to her music, but it is her handwriting I find the most affecting and ultimately the most unfaltering connection to her. This is where her voice still rings clearest, through her own words in her own hand. It is a gift to share this part of yourself with others. Especially those who love you.
Sure, not everyone has beautifully-formed penmanship. My handwriting’s like my maths – shocking under pressure, passable if I’ve time to concentrate. In fact, when my last book was going through final checks, my publishers posted over my printed manuscript asking that I flag any changes the old-fashioned way. By hand. Five-hundred pages later and my scrawls were so illegible I couldn’t send them back! I secretly forked out a small fortune on reprints and re-annotated the flipping lot.
The irony was not lost on me over those fraught days running up to deadline. . . I am a writer who does not write.
Well, no more! I’m going to attack my sixth novel in longhand and hope for the best when it comes to transcription. There’s just something about the promise of a blank sheet of paper and a readied pen.
The possibility. Now. . . where did I put that Biro?
Anouska is a bestselling author of four novels published across 20 countries. Currently writing Women’s Fiction for Harper Collins.