Learning to write with my non-dominant hand

April 25, 2019 — by Justin Guo

Reporter talks about his journey of writing with his left hand and the problems he faces along the way.

The day that I decided to start writing with my left hand began just like any other forgettable Saturday afternoon.

I was at Gunn High School for my weekly AP Chinese class, slouched in my seat as I vaguely listened to my teacher explain the definition of a complex Chinese word with other equally complex Chinese words, when I felt a headache coming on. Bored, I began thinking about ways to keep myself occupied.

I started doodling small shapes and figures, but that just called attention to my nonexistent artistic talent and got me a little bit sad. Next, I began repeatedly writing the Chinese phrase for “save me,” 救命啊, over and over again onto my paper, but doing this only reminded  me of my bad handwriting and gave me flashbacks to third-grade parent teachers conferences where I was constantly reprimanded for not having written between the dashed lines.

Then, an idea popped into my head. What if I took my insubstantial artistic skills and declining penmanship abilities and started writing with my non-dominant hand to make them seem even worse?

So that’s what I did for the rest of class.

At first, I wasn’t fully committed to the idea of writing with my left hand, but after sitting through another uneventful class, I was more than motivated to go through with it.

After a quick skim over an ever so useful Wikihow page, I created a daily routine to master my left hand writing skills: write the alphabet twice, once in uppercase, once in lowercase. Then for numbers, I would repeat the numbers 0-9 twice. Finally, to ensure that I got a wide range of things to write down, I would copy the phrase “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” down a few times, do some basic algebra and try graphing lines and shapes.

In the first few days, my writing resembled that of a small child’s. My font sizes were never consistent, varying from letter to letter. Sometimes I wrote too large, other times I wrote way too large, and I could never write in a straight line. Eight’s were an absolute headache to deal with, and don’t even get me started on my lowercase A’s.

But after a rough start, I began improving. My writing speed increased, and I was able to control my left hand a bit better.

It soon became evident that repeating a set routine was less effective in the long run, because it didn’t test real-life situations where I potentially had to write different types of sentences or change my writing pace.

So, the next step up was to start filling in class notes with my left hand. It was a painfully slow process, and I primarily struggled to keep up with the pace that my teachers were explaining the lesson. Because I had to write faster than I was accustomed to, the chicken scratch that I wrote onto my notes was even more illegible than usual.

This went on for a few weeks before I eventually came to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t going to become ambidextrous anytime soon, and that I should probably be paying more attention to what my teachers were lecturing than trying to perfect my lowercase h’s.

Gradually though, my conscious efforts to continue writing with my left hand started to slow down, as my brain was beginning to get overloaded by a plethora of upcoming tests and projects. Soon, my left hand writing sessions kept getting pushed to the back of my mind.

So I stopped for a while. Though my left hand writing obviously still pales in comparison to my right in terms of speed and size consistency, it’s most definitely improved since I first began; given time, I think I could write or draw most things with my left hand to a reasonable degree.

Nowadays, I occasionally find myself scribbling random drawings or writing small phrases with my left hand when I’m bored. Overall, the entire experience of learning to write with my left was very fun, and is still something that I intend to practice in the future.

After all, there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that I’m slightly better than most people because I’m somewhat decent at writing with my non-dominant hand.

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