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Writing by Hand

Writing

I write, and I’m an engineer – but the number of times that I’ve been told that engineers don’t write, combined with the simple fact that while growing up I recall having loathed writing, it seems an odd combination. This resonated with me this week:

The urge to convert experience into a group of words that are in a grammatical relation to one another is the most basic, ongoing impulse of my life. It is a habit of antiphony: of call and response. Most days begin with sentences that are typed into a journal no one has ever seen. There is a freedom to this; freedom to write what I will not proceed to wrestle with. The entries are mostly quotidian, a warming up of the fingers and brain. On days when I am troubled, when I am grieved, when I am at a loss for words, the mechanics of formulating sentences, and of stockpiling them in a vault, is the only thing that centers me again.

My Life’s Sentences – By Jhumpa Lahiri via New York Times

I’m often brooding over the words as I plan out the structure of an article, hearing phrases form in the back of my mind while the kids chatter at the breakfast table, a sentence completed while shaving, scribbled down for later insertion, words swirling behind my eyelids as I fall asleep at night.

I’m reminded of my own post from a lunchtime in Langley, BC, where I contemplated the deliberative act of writing…

Almost no-one writes by hand anymore, particularly not in cursive, the very act almost counter cultural, not in some strange Winsten-esque 1984 moment, but more an act of patience and deliberative effort in an age of speed and information overload.

Writing and journalling has been taking a backseat recently, but I miss it. I’ve been busy with other creative endeavours including music, but in 2015 I’m planning on writing more, both on the blog, professionally, and maybe even some creative writing in there too.Writing by Hand

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

3 thoughts on “Writing

  1. Nice post, Mike! I’m an engineer who likes writing (loves reading) as well…your thoughts about writing by hand – and in cursive – are something I need to give more thought to. My office is completely paperless (well, except for the bathroom) so I operate in an environment deliberately designed to discourage opportunities for handwriting.

    Each week I set aside time for reflection (usually a walk in the woods) and jot down handwritten notes in a sketch book…but my blog articles and other posts are 100% typewritten. I definitely could benefit from taking the time to engage in some more “inefficient” writing.

  2. I trained as an electrical engineer but moved over to IT. I don’t write much by hand but do type a lot of reports and documentation so I’d say that writing is an essential skill for an engineer. I do keep a sketch pad for ideas a rough notes. I used to keep a journal for work but after many years of realizing I’d never once read it I stopped doing that.

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