Left Handed Writing

Years ago, in middle school, we had to pick an artist to do a paper on. I originally wanted to write about Roy Lichtenstein, but this was before Google and it proved impossible finding sufficient information about him. I ended up choosing Leonardo da Vinci, for whom there was no shortage of information.

Among the many things he's famous for, one of them is his backwards script. It is believed he only wrote left to right when his words were meant to be read by somebody else. His private writing was written in a mirrored right to left script. There are a number of theories on why he did this. Some posit it was a simple way to make his notes hard for the uninitiated to read so a quick glance wouldn't allow anyone to steal his ideas. Others believe it was a "code" of sorts to protect him from persecution by religious fanatics. I find these arguments unconvincing. Mirrored writing looks like mirrored writing and is not especially hard for somebody to decipher.

As a fellow lefty, I thought it would be fun and thematic to write my report in mirror writing. If my memory serves it was about 10 pages of actual text, spread out between images of da Vinci's works glued onto the lined pages. I'm not sure the teacher even read it, but I got full marks for the effort alone.

What I learned from hand writing those 10 pages of text was that it's much easier for a lefty to write from right to left, than to try and mimic right handers and go left to right. I'm not the first or only person to discover this and it is one of the theories put forward for da Vinci's writing.

A right hander using a pen or pencil drags it across the page. A left hander however is constantly pushing the pen into the paper, requiring more force. I remember well getting hand strain from writing long essays in school because of the strong grip required. I can imagine the quill pens da Vinci used may have struggled under a left hand writing left to right. It makes sense that probably the smartest person of his time simply choose a method that was more comfortable and utilitarian when writing notes just for himself.

I still like to take notes on paper, even though my job is all done on a computer. It always bugged me though that my left to right script has an inconsistent style and sometimes looks a little childish. Given I'm really only writing notes for myself I eventually came back around to the idea of embracing mirror writing as my day-to-day script.

There are a lot of benefits. My writing is much neater and more consistent; it looks like one person wrote it rather than 5 people taking turns to write a word each. I can write faster and with less hand strain. I'm less likely to smudge the words I've already written. I'm sure long term there are probably some mental plasticity benefits too.

If you're a lefty and you're also frustrated with the struggles of living with the right handed way of writing imposed on us, try flipping things around. It'll take a little practice but it feels remarkably natural. You'll likely find your brain short circuits every now and again and you try and flip the odd letter back to the right handed way of doing it, but that quickly fades. In no time you'll be writing like da Vinci and have a cool new skill.

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