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Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Week 3: Before I Knew I Was a Writer, I Was a Reader

Brett Rawson

For Week Three, we have scooted away from Words for Wallpaper and asked Rehani about her own relationship, attitude, and experience with the art and act of writing by hand.

HANDWRITTEN: Tell us about the current state of your handwriting. Are you happy with your penmanship? 

ANDREA REHANI: Majority if not all of my writing is initially written by hand. However my penmanship isn’t great. It resembles messy 4th grade handwriting. There are times I wish I wrote like my mother. Hers, elegant cursive strokes. Before I knew I was a writer, I was a reader. I used to copy my favorite sentences from books into my journal. I have been writing in a journal since I was in third grade. 

HW: What word do you use, prefer, like, or dislike, when it comes your handwriting homes, and what kinds of things do you write by hand?

AR: Sometimes, I think certain words carry certain identities, stereotypes, gender, or images. For instance diary writing is often associated with women and feelings. I like to use the word journal – I find it to be mostly neutral and it conveys thinking. I handwrite everything first: outlines, essay drafts, poetry, and grocery lists. Although, I wish my grocery lists were like haikus. 

HW: When you write, poetry or prose, where do you begin and where do you end? Do you start out by hand and finish by hand? Do you revise on a computer? What do you consider a finished product to be?

AR: I start my poetry, prose, prose poetry, my in-between stage, all by hand. My essays are usually written on color-coordinated and numbered note cards. Once I have the bones of what I am working on, I transfer it to a computer. My essays undergo several drafts and once they are on a computer, I print them, cross out words, handwrite words, and revise them on a computer. I don’t like to initially revise on a computer – I miss things. I need my writing physically in my hands. The words flow more organically when I handwrite them, too. Writing is never done because my perspectives are always changing. However, when I feel like I want to set one of my essays on fire or if I feel empty, then I consider them done for the time being. 

HW: Do you write handwritten letters often? 

AR: I have a pen pal in Michigan and we attempt to exchange every month or so. When I lived in New York, my mother and I exchanged letters. My mother has written me letters since I was young. I have a box filled with them. She, too, starts her day writing in her journal. 

HW: Where do you like to write by hand? Is place important to you, or is it something else - vibe, music, the trip to that place, or otherwise?

AR: I like to write down conversations I overhear on the train. Sometimes, they make me laugh. Sometimes, they’re absurd. Sometimes, they are profound.  I like to write down things I have to do. I like to write down unfamiliar words and their definitions.  I like to write down sentences or graphs or stanzas or lines I’ve admired. I like to write in parks and coffee shops. I like to be surrounded by people as I immerse myself in my writing world. I need a little noise, but I don’t like to listen to music when I write unless it’s in a coffee shop. The music there is subdued with coffee and voices.