So you want to be a writer – first learn how to make an X

First try at "writing" post-stroke

My handwriting is like a child’s – really – like a toddler’s.

The pen fits in my hand like it used to, but it is foreign when it comes to movement. It’s as though my brain has forgotten the movements that propels it to write.

What a minute!

It has forgotten the movements – I’ve had a stroke!

I stare at the notebook willing the pen to make the loops
and swirls of yesteryear that I delighted in as I created words freely, never
thinking of the acrobatics involved in building them. I stare at the notebook
again and force my hand to begin upward stroke (there’s that word again) of an
“a”, and then force the hand to make a circle and encourage it to finish it off
with a flourish. 10-15 seconds to make one letter, and it’s not pretty. In an
old Western movie¸ to make my X on a piece of paper, I would have to think it
through – start with a diagonal line, from right to left, or left to right? Or
start at the bottom or the top?

I don’t see this as a learning experience because I’ve learned it once already. To re-learn
something you have loved is torture of the soul

I will admit I was a handwriting junkie. I would write long
passages by hand with my favourite fountain pen (Parker Sonnet, Tombow Havanna,Schaeffer Legacy, dependent on my mood, and filled with blue/black ink). I found it was easier than a keyboard, or (remember this) a typewriter. The words just seemed to flow from brain to pen to paper so easily.

Handwriting before the stroke

I used to hand write news stories on the way back from assignments. Armed with facts I would write press releases by hand first. And for years I explored the possibilities of my novel across reams of notebooks. Only then would I submit the story to the keyboard.

Now, I was back to learning how to use a pen and unlocking the brain that held the words. One stroke at time, into one letter at a time; then,one word at a time.

At first I noticed that my hand doesn’t move across the page
– in other words, I can struggle to write maybe four letters and then I run out
of space. There isn’t strength enough to move the hand over to make room for
more letters because my hand is heavy, anchoring itself like a rock to where I
place it. More workouts are needed on the hand to get it in shape. I timed one
word and it took me about 15 seconds to make a five letter word. I hate this

And it needs to be said that words coming from my brain were
nonexistent. I was copying letters into letters, then words that made sentences
– from newspapers, or books, or stroke information leaflets.

To get the flow of me-generated words from my brain I had to
rely on my speech therapist Catherine. She inaugurated the expedition to search
to out my missing vocabulary by putting me onto games with words – word
searches and crosswords – as part of my .weekly sessions. They would provide
the impetus to me regaining the words I needed to survive – both spoken out
loud and bombinating around the interior of my skull. The synonyms which are
the building blocks of that vocabulary slowly returned. I could almost count
them as they marched in, in single file, like returning refugees to the mother

I was hungry for words.


4 responses to “So you want to be a writer – first learn how to make an X

  1. I have a similar issue with the fine motor skills required to write but I have never had an issue with the vocab and I think that’s down to the location of the stroke. Mine is everything to do with motor control, so not being able to speak was completely a not being able to control my muscles issue, for some reason the muscle patterns for swearing came back more quickly so hospital staff were treated to some sailors vernacular to start with. As for the writing, I feel it’s gone. I couldn’t agree more with your point about relearning things that were easy being torture. It’s a perfect description for sh*tty post-stroke life

    • I use the computer, but I still take notes in my 7 year old longhand style to outline what I want to include. It’s satisfying, yes, when I compare it to what it was a year ago. It now is my most reliable voice.

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