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Good handwriting comes from good writing materials. Years ago when I used to write on pages and notebooks my handwriting varied with the kind of pen I was writing with and the kind of paper I was writing on. I observed this a number of times. The ink from the pen should flow easily, smoothly, without interruptions. The paper must be good, ruled or not, it must allow the pen to run over it smoothly. The ink must dry quickly. There cannot be any smudges, wrinkles or breaks in a line or curve.

The quality of writing depends on the quality of the materials I get to write. What do we call it? Is it a superstition? No. Is it a notion? No. Is it a belief? No. I think it has something to do with the flow, with the ability to let the words flow from the pen to the paper, the ease with which the writing is accomplished. It is a satisfying experience, a feelgood experience, when I have that perfect combination of pen and paper.

Now, I hardly write on paper. I do almost all my writing on a computing device, like a mobile phone or a tablet. The writing materials have changed. I don’t use a pen at all, nor is there a paper that is tangible. Nothing to hold. Nothing to spill or smudge. Nothing to tear or prevent from flying away. The entire phenomenon of writing has changed: it is a paradigm shift. I don’t think in terms of writing materials at all. I think instead in terms of what app I am going to use. The app provides the page and the keyboard, physical or virtual, is the writing tool.

Here too the mood dominates, if one could call it that. The mood for writing changes with the app I am using to do my writing. There is of course no handwriting here, although there are apps that allow me to do that too. I don’t like to use those handwriting apps. Handwriting is a lost art, something that served its purpose well in the centuries that we have used it. From a personal form called beautiful handwriting, to a professional form called calligraphy, it evolved through time and served our need. Now we are in the electronic era. We don’t write anymore, except to sign documents and cheques. We type. In this age we crossed several milestones, the first being the rise and then the demise of the typewriter, even the electronic one. Another important milestone that we crossed is that of the keyboard of the PC (a dying species itself): it does not make noise at all, a good one really. Now, in this age of the tablets, we type on a virtual keyboard, the one I am using to write, or should I say type, now. These changes took decades to happen, and the quality of writing has morphed from the handwriting to the font of the text. And the mood now depends on the font and other accessories of writing, such as the background color of the page, the distraction-free environment and the additional punctuation keys provided by the app.

The quality of writing today has more to do with the app than with the hand. Even though the writing materials have changed, there is still something that dictates its quality. But of course, it is not just the quality of writing here that I am concerned with. For writing between two people is not identifiable as in handwriting, because the print like font has erased the personal identity in writing. There is now a uniformity that is dictated by the app and not by the hand. One can no longer decipher personality traits by analyzing one’s handwriting. We now hide our nature behind a font. We can no longer talk in terms of the quality of writing in this sense.

The quality of writing in the true sense of that expression is not in the writing but in what is written. That I think is where we are headed. Calligraphy may hide atrocious or even execrable written content. But both good and bad writing appear the same no matter which font you use, which app you use, which background color for the paper you choose. I am however on a different track here. More than the quality of writing, I am here concerned with the quantity of writing. I am able to produce more writing if I use an app that supports my thinking, that encourages me to write, that provides a distraction free environment, that corrects my typos as I write (sometimes this autocorrection feature is a bane, it produces mistakes insidiously).

The muse in this sense helps me write more, express my thoughts and feelings more, makes me sit and write without distraction, without losing sight of what I am writing. So I am carrying over to the virtual world, what I was depending on the material world to write. Muse is muse at its best, when there is a writing app that helps most.