Forming Letters to Make Coherent Words

The speed of typing makes it easy to forget what writing is. The act of writing begins with selecting and forming a single letter, but when the “W” that started this sentence was formed, my mind was already beyond the word “When”.

To understand writing better, it’s useful to examine a different written language. Chinese writing is difficult for a person that is comfortable forming whole sentences quickly, using letters, fingers & a keyboard. The need to form a series of marks that add up to create a single word is more than a language switch. It’s a new mechanism for creating coherence. Chinese and English are the difference between a piano and a trumpet. Both make sounds that hold together intelligibly, but the mechanisms (vibrations from forced air vs. vibrations from striking keys) are quite different.

With high levels of medium comfort (with trumpets, letters, or calligraphy) a communicator’s mind generates concepts and implements them immediately. The implementation speed makes a competent typist’s writing a reflection of immediate thoughts, rather than a record of careful reflections. Therefore, when writing flows quickly it forms an authentic record of a person’s thoughts.

If writing is the formation of one letter and then another and another, hunting and pecking with one finger is a solid reminder of the degree to which fast typing connects our brains closely with a written output. (I wrote the previous sentence with one finger. Painfully slow, but memorable.)

Do we write to be comprehended by an outside reader? Or do we hope that we might understand ourselves better when we go back and read what our minds created? It depends on how slowly we form 信 (letters).