Handwriting: famous signatures and what they mean

cursive handwriting

Handwriting is truly a fascinating thing. Every single detail about each of our personal handwriting style has a specific purpose and meaning, and each is unique to us as individuals.

Some people’s handwriting and signatures are rife with loops, slants and extra adornments, while others are straight, toned-down, and more modest.

Even more fascinating is what handwriting can reveal about our personal lives.

The team behind Invaluable created a really neat infographic that details famous signatures and the meanings behind them. From Edgar Allen Poe to Picasso, the details expose truly interesting information about the way each lived and operated.

Check it out below!

Virginia Woolf signature

TS Eliot signature

Jk Rowling signature.png

Shakespeare signature

Check out the full list of 14 famous signatures via Invaluable

About the author of this post

Emma WelshEmma Welsh is a writer at Invaluable.com, the world’s leading online market place for fine art, antiques and collectibles. You can see more of her and her colleagues’ work at https://www.invaluable.com/blog

Advertisements

The rewards of revision: writers on writing as re-writing

typewriter-1

It’s been said before and will be said again; but one of the most – if not the most – important parts of writing is re-writing. Writing often isn’t about inspiration or waiting for your muse to arrive – it’s about getting down to it and finally actually writing that novel you’ve been working on – and then fine-tuning it. Writing is about finding your way into the moment and sustaining the energy for as long as you can effectively and in the rhythm of your narrative. Then it’s about checking what you’ve produced and making sure you succeeded – and even where you’ve done well, it’s about looking at your work in the cold light of day and trying to improve it even further (for example, by cutting out clichéd phrases like the cold light of day).

Here, for you today, we have brought you a selection of the most delicious quotes on rewriting and revision from some of the finest writers of the last 100 years. Enjoy!

Ernest Hemingway

HemingwayGun

“The greatest pleasure in writing is rewriting. My early drafts are always wretched.

[…]

Revision takes time, a pleasing long process. Some of these essays took more than eighty drafts, some as few as thirty… Because of multiple drafts I have been accused of self-discipline. Really I am self-indulgent, I cherish revising so much.”

Zadie Smith

Zadie-Smith

“When you finish your novel, if money is not a desperate priority, if you do not need to sell it at once or be published that very second — put it in a drawer. For as long as you can manage. A year or more is ideal — but even three months will do. Step away from the vehicle. The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat backstage with a line of novelists at some festival, all of us with red pens in hand, frantically editing our published novels into fit form so that we might go onstage and read from them. It’s an unfortunate thing, but it turns out that the perfect state of mind to edit your own novel is two years after it’s published, ten minutes before you go onstage at a literary festival. At that moment every redundant phrase, each show-off, pointless metaphor, all the pieces of deadwood, stupidity, vanity and tedium are distressingly obvious to you. Two years earlier, when the proofs came, you looked at the same page and couldn’t see a comma out of place.

[…]

You need a certain head on your shoulders to edit a novel, and it’s not the head of a writer in the thick of it, nor the head of a professional editor who’s read it in twelve different versions. It’s the head of a smart stranger who picks it off a bookshelf and begins to read. You need to get the head of that smart stranger somehow. You need to forget you ever wrote that book.”

Stephen King

king5-450x300

“Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: ‘Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.’

Truman Capote

100 best novel cold blood

“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”

Kurt Vonnegut

43766-1

“Your eloquence should be the servant of the ideas in your head. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.”

Donald Hall

Donald-Hall

“The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is never write too much at a time… Never pump yourself dry. Leave a little for the next day. The main thing is to know when to stop. Don’t wait till you’ve written yourself out. When you’re still going good and you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop. Then leave it alone and don’t think about it; let your subconscious mind do the work.

[…]

The next morning, when you’ve had a good sleep and you’re feeling fresh, rewrite what you wrote the day before. When you come to the interesting place and you know what is going to happen next, go on from there and stop at another high point of interest. That way, when you get through, your stuff is full of interesting places and when you write a novel you never get stuck and you make it interesting as you go along. Every day go back to the beginning and rewrite the whole thing and when it gets too long, read at least two or three chapters before you start to write and at least once a week go back to the start. That way you make it one piece. And when you go over it, cut out everything you can. The main thing is to know what to leave out. The way you tell whether you’re going good is by what you can throw away. If you can throw away stuff that would make a high point of interest in somebody else’s story, you know you’re going good.”

Helen Dunmore

Extra-Helen-Dunmore-0071

“Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.”

In nuce, then, writing is two steps: the first draft, and the second, repeated on and on, ad infinitum until the process simply cannot be sustained (or until you die and leave your unpublished manuscripts in a loft somewhere in the hope that a future generation of your grandchildren will uncover the books, find something meaningful in it and whack it up on the internet in an eBook). But the important thing to remember is that rewriting is, in so many ways, not too dissimilar from the writing part. You’re just taking existing writing and making it better.

Now, what’s so hard about that?

Pen as negotiator between creative brain and creative body – famous writers on the importance of handwriting

cursive handwriting

There is something about handwriting that is thoroughly human. Few things exercise – and exorcise – the often stubborn collaboration between mind and body like that direct line between the tip of the pen and the tip of the neuron. Pens become the corporeal transmitter of creative flow for writers, just as the paintbrush is for the artist; the camera lens for the photographer.

Yet in our digital world, we so often find ourselves only using the keyboards of our desktop computers, our laptops – or even our minimalist typewriters (if you swing that way). With such tools available to us, it can be tempting to forget the power of the pen and the importance of handwriting. But don’t just take our word for it! Here we’ve collected just a few thoughts of famous writers on the glorious, grounding physicality of penmanship…

John Steinbeck

In a series of disarming observations, Steinbeck captures the curious role of the pen as negotiator between brain and body in Working Days: The Journals of the Grapes of Wrath. This remarkable volume gives us a glimpse how the great writer used a diary as a tool of discipline when he embarked upon the most intense writing experience of his life – the masterwork that earned him the Pulitzer Prize.

Steinbeck

Here, we see how the writer falls almost completely in love with his pen. In July, he notes:

“This has been a good pen to me so far. Never had such a good one.”

And by mid-August:

“What a wonderful pen this is. It has and is giving me perfect service – never stops flowing for a second and never overflows and blots a word.”

A year later, having dabbled with using a new pen (flirting with a younger model), he returns to his calligraphic home:

“There is no doubt that this fine old pen is better and smoother than the newer one. I think I’ll keep with this good old pen. I’ve done a lot of writing with it. I only hope it holds up.”

As his relationship with the pen develops, we see Steinbeck define fulfilment in a way we hope other aspiring writers take heart from. For it is not in writing for readers or writing for publishers or writing for commercial success that Steinbeck seeks happiness – but in the profound private fulfilment of simply writing:

“The perfect pen and the perfect paper and me working on work that pleases me and has no note for the critics.”

Or, more intensely:

“Oh! Lord, how good this paper feels under this pen. I can sit here writing and the words slipping out like grapes out of their skins and I feel so good doing it.”

Then perhaps Steinbeck captures in a single exquisite passage the almost mystical quality of writing by hand – the strange way the pen can become a projection of the creative psyche, channeling deepest longings and twirling patterns of thought as the hand drafts what might be the meaning of life itself:

“Here is a strange thing — almost like a secret. You start out putting words down and there are three things — you, the pen, and the page. Then gradually the three things merge until they are all one and you feel about the page as you do about your arm. Only you love it more than you love your arm. Some day I will be all alone and lonely — either dead and alone or alive and alone, and what will I do then? Then those things I have now and do not know will become so desperately dear that they will be aches. Then what? There will be no way to cure those aches, no way. In that coldness nothing will come. Things are leaving me now because they came too fast — too many of them — and being unable to receive them I threw them out and soon they will not come any more. This process is called life or living or any one of a number of things like that. In other words these are the soundless words, the words that have no being at all. The grey birds of loneliness hopping about. I thought that there might be a time or a condition different from that. But I know now — there isn’t any other way. “

Edgar Allan Poe

One of the masters of mystery and the macabre, Poe provides us with much reason to lament the rise of Kindels and e-readers, as he explains one of the key joys of a book is being able to write – in the margins – one’s thoughts as one reads, as though in an intimate, entwined conversation between yourself and the writer.

Edgar_Allan_Poe_daguerreotype_crop

‘Marginalia’ are, to Poe, a playground for ideas and intellectual discourse – where one’s personal handwriting exhibits the mind at its most uninhibited. Certainly, a vital prerequisite for writers often afraid to write out one’s thoughts for fear of finding them flippant or trivial, as Poe notes:

“Marginalia are deliberately penciled, because the mind of the reader wishes to unburden itself of a thought; — however flippant — however silly — however trivial — still a thought indeed, not merely a thing that might have been a thought in time, and under more favorable circumstances. In the marginalia, too, we talk only to ourselves; we therefore talk freshly — boldly — originally — with abandonment — without conceit. . . .”

And Poe does not forget to point out that handwriting is marginalia’s most necessary vehicle. He asserts that personal script, and handwriting itself, create a window into one’s core attributes of character:

“I am far more than half serious in all that I have ever said about manuscript, as affording indication of character.

The general proposition is unquestionable — that the mental qualities will have a tendency to impress the MS [manuscript]. […]given a man’s purely physical biography, with his MS., and the moral biography may be deduced.

The actual practical extent to which these ideas are applicable, is not sufficiently understood.”

Mary Gordon

In her wonderful essay Putting Pen to Paper, but Not Just Any Pen to Just Any Paper, Gordon celebrates the glorious, grounding physicality of penmanship:

marygordon

“Writing by hand is laborious, and that is why typewriters were invented. But I believe that the labor has virtue, because of its very physicality. For one thing it involves flesh, blood and the thingness of pen and paper, those anchors that remind us that, however thoroughly we lose ourselves in the vortex of our invention, we inhabit a corporeal world.”

Indeed, she posits that the tool itself is in itself a gateway – and it may transport us to a different sense of self:

“My pen. It is a Waterman’s, black enamel with a trim of gold. When I write with it, I feel as if I’m wearing a perfectly tailored suit, and my hair is flawlessly pulled back into a chignon. Elizabeth Bowen, maybe, only French. Anna de Noialles, but played by Deborah Kerr. My pen is elegant, even if I’m wearing the terry robe whose frayed state suggests a fashion statement from a gulag. My ink is Waterman’s black. Once while traveling I could only find blue-black. I used it for a few weeks, but it made me feel like a punitive headmistress.”

And, in copying out – by hand – the writing of poets, authors, musicians, Gordon finds this can create for her what all writers seek – inspiration:

“Into the notebook I am using for the fiction I’m writing, I copy paragraphs whose heft and cadence I can learn from. And some days, if I’m lucky, the very movement of my hand, like a kind of dance, starts up another movement that allows me to forget the vanity, the folly, of what I am really about.”

Perhaps this inspiration drives from the special physicality of handwriting, which Gordon notes can prove rather pleasurable:

“It is remarkably pleasant, before the failure starts, to use one’s hand and wrist, to hold and savor pleasant objects, for the purpose of copying in one’s own delightful penmanship the marks of those who have gone before. Those whom we cannot believe have ever thought of failing, or of (as I do each morning) envying hod carriers, toxic waste inspectors, any of those practitioners of high and graceful callings that involve jobs it is possible to do.”

And then, Gordon (and this article) concludes with the following thought – a passing warning to the pitfalls of modern technology:

“I don’t know what people who work on computers do to get themselves started. I hope never to learn firsthand.”