Odd dream last night--the semester was just beginning, and I was supposed to be teaching a class on...handwriting. Except that I was woefully unprepared for it, and only five students registered, and they all looked really bored before I'd even begun speaking. To make matters worse, the textbook, which was about three inches thick and far wider than it was tall, was actually on the subject of "What We Mean By 'Home'." And the editor of this textbook was a writer I kind of knew back in the day, whose husband ritually trashed my first novel in the local paper.
What the hell's all that about? Anyway, I got thinking about handwriting today. I have really never written anything longhand (see the typewriter post for the one exception) save for checks, notes, and grocery lists. There's something about seeing my own handwriting, at least in the context of creative endeavor, that makes me discount whatever content the words represent. It just doesn't look serious to me, somehow.
I definitely don't feel that way about other people's handwriting, however. Indeed, there is something singularly thrilling about seeing a page of manuscript by a writer I love (the pic above is a page out of Finnegans Wake). There's the obvious reason for this--the frisson of knowing the writer's actual hand touched this page, etc etc. But there's a deeper interest as well--a manuscript page seems to reveal the act of writing as a form of work, as an inherently flawed endeavor that requires reconsideration and reshaping. This is how I like to think of art--as a form of work, not of divine intervention--and how I like to think of my favorite artists operating.
Perhaps I don't like seeing myself operating this way, though. I'm not sure how come--you'd think I'd be delighted to do what my heroes have done, the way they did it. In any event, I'm in the final stages of the submission draft of my next book, and maybe I feel a bit nervous about it. (The narrator is always saying things like "In any event..." Is this annoying?) Maybe I dreamed of handwriting, and unpreparedness, and poor attendance, as expressions of my fear that I have penned a dud.
Typed a dud, I mean. Penned! God forbid.