Handwriting.  It conveys so much more than the mere words put on the page. Handwritten notes make the written word seem more relatable.

I happened to be on the phone the other day with the new Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, Katie Buckland. Katie had called me regarding the education initiative that we were beginning where I work and she wanted to see if there was any alignment with what she had recently done with the WGA Library.

During our conversation, she was telling me about the handwritten manuscripts they have in their collection. She said with all of the scripts they have, it is the handwritten ones that people want to see the most. Then she told me a story about having some High School students at the library.  She was showing them the script for Star Wars:The Empire Strikes Back written by Leight Brackett & Lawrence Kasdan. On it was a handwritten note by Kasden that read, “Figure out speech pattern for Yoga.” Apparently when looking at this handwritten note, one of the students thought it was so cool that “someone like me” had written the script. She went on to say that the reason most people want to see the handwritten items in the collection is because they feel that they are gleaning something from the writer that the typed word just does not convey.  I must say that I have found this to be true as I read the letters that I have been sent.

A song came on the radio the other day that was right in line with this idea of passing on something human through the handwritten word. It was by the band The Gaslight Anthem. The Gaslight Anthem is an American punk rock band from New Jersey. The song was called Handwritten and here are the lyrics:


Pull it out, turn it up, what’s your favorite song?
That’s mine, I’ve been crying to it since I was young
I know there’s someone out there feeling just how I feel
I know they’re waiting up, I know they’re waiting to heal
And I’ve been holding my breath,
Are you holding your breath, for too many years to count?

And we waited for sirens that never come
And we only write by the moon, every word handwritten
And to ease the loss of youth and how many years I’ve missed you
Pages plead forgiveness, every word handwritten

Let it out, let me in, take a hold of my hand
There’s nothing like another soul that’s been cut up the same
And did you wanna drive without a word in-between?
I can understand, you need a minute to breathe
And to sew up the seams… after all this defeat

And we waited for sirens that never come
And we only write by the moon, every word handwritten
And to ease the loss of youth and the many, many years I missed you
Pages plead forgiveness, every word handwritten

Here, in the dark, I cherish the moonlight

And it travels from heart, to limb, to pen

And we waited for sirens that never come
And we only write by the moon, every word handwritten
And with this pen, I thee wed
From my heart to your distress

Hopelessly romantic for sure.  I looked up a review of the song. I found an interesting one by Steven M. Deusner for Pitchfork, a Chicago-based daily internet publication.  Deusner writes:

“Brian Fallon doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who does a lot of texting. No LOLs or emoticons for him, no clever abbreviations. “Every word handwritten,” he emphasizes on The Gaslight Anthem’s fourth album, which is actually titled Handwritten. And no fancy electric lamps for Fallon: “We only write by the light of the moon.” He’s a defiantly old-school type– he’d probably be a Luddite if not for electric guitars– and The Gaslight Anthem get most of their moves from the 1950s and 1960s: girl groups, greasers, juvenile delinquents, rockabilly tough guys, and a certain gun-wielding super-producer.”

Luddite. I have been called this at times, certainly since I started this project. But, then again I am using electronic media to publish this blog about my handwritten project so I think that disqualifies me. According to the reviewer, this band is very retro in their content, perhaps the same can be said for me as well. Deusner goes on to say, “No matter their flaws, they know that redemption lies somewhere on the dial, in an old tune we can all sing along to.”

Redemption. In the case of The Gaslight Anthem, I would take that to mean our desire to be saved in sort of the biblical sense. In my case, I think it is more like gaining possession of something in exchange for something else.

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