The Dreaded Claw-Hand

April 19, 2011

I just emerged from writing furiously for three hours. Yes, it is exam season. I don’t actually mind the content of exams all that much. My grade eight science teacher used to swear that exams could be enjoyable, if you got into a sort of Zen “test zone.” I do think this is true, and in the midst of writing, I may not be actively enjoying the experience (unless it’s a topic I know really, really well and get to expound upon), but I’m certainly not unhappy. It is a kind of altered state, I guess, beyond un/happiness.

Except for the Claw-Hand.

I don’t write by hand all that much. I type almost as fast as I think, and for me, writing by hand is a forced, laborious process. Not so bad when I’m writing down notes and ponderings for a story (it’s good to be forced to slow down a little), but not so good when I’m rushing for time. Three hours of sustained, feverish writing, and trying to keep that writing somewhat legible, usually leaves my hand looking a bit like this.

But why do I get Claw-Hand so badly?

I blame society.

When I was a small child, I wrote and coloured with whichever hand happened to be closest to the crayon or marker I wanted.  I was ambidextrous. Unfortunately, because I used both hands equally, each hand only got 50% of the practice it would’ve normally received had I just chosen to become a leftie or a rightie. Eventually, noticing my handwriting was progressing about half as quickly as my peers’, my teachers stepped in.

A bit too late, as it happened. I yielded to their admonitions to use only my right hand, but I could never quite learn to hold pens and pencils properly, my already weak fine motor skills unable to cope with the prospect of using my right hand alone. Thus my handwriting that looks a ten-year-old’s if I’m being neat, and pure chickenscratch if I’m not. 

The handwriting’s a shame. I admire people who can do nice calligraphy. But the claw-hand bothers me more: the cramping and swelling. It’ll go away eventually. And I have to say, as someone who wants to write for a living, I am unbelievably grateful that we’re shifting into a society of typed words. Yes, handwriting is a dying art and it’s sad to see it go. But honestly?

I’m just glad I can write for hours without needing an ice-pack.

Anyone else a closet southpaw or ambie? Any similar experiences with the Claw?




  1. I’m not in the closet. I’ve been left-handed my whole writing life. I do get smudges along the edge of my hand when writing, since Indo-European languages just have to be written from left to right. I use right-handed scissors, though, and many other things with my right hand.

    • That’s interesting… I think that’s why I was “encouraged” to use my right hand- a lot of things are made for right-handed people. That being said, my left foot is my dominant foot when I play soccer, and I still use utensils and reach for things ambidextrously. Makes cutting meat a lot easier when you don’t have to keep switching your fork from hand to hand!

  2. I’ve always been a righty and if I write with pen and paper instead of typing I get serious claw hand. That is one of the reasons I stopped keeping a journal years ago.

  3. I’m a rightie, and due to my my extreme premature birth (a whopping 17 weeks early!) I had some serious gross motor and fine motor setback that still plague me to this day. Needless to say, my handwriting is atrocious. Don’t get met started on the athletics.

    • I suppose I’m lucky in that it was just the fine motor skills that lagged (and speech- I had a lisp that reemerges if I get really angry/excited/nervous, or if I have to face a weird combination of sounds). Thank goodness people prefer things typed now, eh?

  4. Great post as usual! My handwriting is so small, secretive, cramped, and slanted that only a very few can read it (secret goal). I actually had a woman ask me once if I was writing in Japanese. No idea where that came from. My son is left-handed and struggles because his hand drags across his words, whether it’s pen or pencil, smudging everything. I think handwriting in general will become an art form like caligraphy before too long, as we use computers more and more. Just like the act of mailing letters is fading.

    • I love getting letters in the mail! But you’re right, nowadays when I have post, it’s usually from the government. As for the Japanese… I’m not sure where that came from either! At least no one’s asked me if a younger sibling filled in my form. 😛

  5. My handwriting (right-handed) is gorgeous . . . but I get claw hand if I write for more than 20 minutes at a stretch.

    Nowadays, I write very little in long hand . . . preferring the keyboard and e-mails to handwritten journals and letters.

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