Write With Your Arm, Not With Your Hand?

My handwriting has sucked eternally- I still remember neatness coming up as the single issue at my parent-teacher conferences in elementary school. I never ran into legibility problems, but had a tough time keeping vertical lines vertical, horizontal lines horizontal, and everything landing on the baseline. I made some improvements with the long-letters-long approach (make tall letters as tall as you can, and shrink the shorter ones), but I’ve always envied people with neat writing.

I once googled a few variations of “improve your handwriting,” and found absolutely nothing of worth: “sit up straight, practice individual letters, just write slower until you get better.” Today, though, I stumbled across this article:

People who inevitably have trouble with handwriting and calligraphy write with their fingers. They “draw” the letters. A finger-writer puts the full weight of his/her hand on the paper, his fingers form the letters, and he picks his hand up repeatedly to move it across the paper as he writes.

If you use the right muscle groups, your writing will have a smooth, easy flow and not look tortured.
People for whom writing comes more easily may rest their hands fairly heavily on the paper, but their forearms and shoulders move as they write. Their writing has a cadence that shows they’re using at least some of the right muscle groups. They don’t draw the letters with their fingers; the fingers serve more as guides.

This exercise may help you determine which category is yours: Sit down and write a paragraph. Doesn’t matter what. Pay attention to the muscles you use to form your letters. Do you draw each letter with your fingers? Pick your hand up repeatedly to move it? Have an unrecognizable scrawl? Does your forearm move? Chances are, if you learned to write after 1955-60 (depending on where you went to grade school), you write with your fingers.

(full article here)

Blew me away; I’m a complete finger-writer. Finger-writing makes intuitive sense to me- writing means small movements, and small movements seem like they’d be best facilitated by small muscles close to where the motion is happening. When I thought about it a little more, though, I realized that I write a lot better on a whiteboard than I do on a paper, and a vertical surface is the one place finger-writing is impossible (I’ve surprised myself in the English class I teach with how regular my writing looks).

I’ve started practicing the techniques the article talks about: writing lines at various angles, circles, and loops, keeping the fingers and wrist as still as possible and writing with your arm and shoulder. It feels weird, and gets a little tiring, but when I concentrate my rhythm and regularity improve a pretty good amount. One thing that gets me, though, is my Japanese writing is horrible when I write like this. At first I thought that the more multi-directional, jilted nature of kanji languages means that you use your fingers to write instead of your hand, but then calligraphy came to mind- those guys definitely use their whole arms.

What kind of a writer are you? Do you switch muscle groups between western and asian languages?