I have always been curious as to how much of my difficulties with writing Chinese characters are related to my being left-handed, and how much are just normal difficulties that are common to all adult learners of Chinese script.
Me and Mike had the following things in common:
- Difficulty drawing straight horizontal lines from left to right
- Difficulty getting the ends of lines to 'look right'
- Difficulty getting some curved lines to 'look right'
- Having spent a *lot* of time trying to find the "right" pen/pencil and paper... and the quality of our writing being very dependant on what pen/pencil & paper we are using
- Having some success with fine-tipped 'gel' ballpoint pens, but having the ink mysteriously 'run out' half-way through a sentence or character
I think I've mostly overcome item no. 1, but Mike has not yet. The problem is that horizontal strokes in the Chinese writing system are supposed to be drawn from left to right, and not right to left. For a right-hander, this means that you start with the pen extended away from your hand and you pull it back towards your hand. For a left-hander, this means that you push the pen away from your had to draw the line.
It is much easier to draw a straight line when "pulling" than when "pushing". When "pulling", the motion is similar to flicking the pen back towards your hand. This requires less control and results in less friction between the pen and the paper. In contrast, the left-handed "pushing" motion is harder to control, and there is more friction between pen and paper, because in pushing the pen away from your hand you also push against the paper. The extra friction makes it more difficult to write a smooth, flowing line.
I have managed to mostly overcome this through practice, and my solution has been to use a fair bit of force when "pushing" the pen away from my hand, left-to-right. The force overcomes the friction, and allows me to draw a fairly straight line. I also need to draw the line quickly in one fast motion, to ensure that it is straight. This means I have less control over when the line stops, but through practice I have managed to learn by habit the amount of starting force required for different length lines, and how to stop the pen/pencil roughly where I want it.
With regard to no. 2, difficulty in getting the ends of the lines right, I am grateful to a TAFE teacher I had a few years ago for pointing out the following, er, point:
If I'm lucky, you should see a large brush-script style Chinese character 文 above. Depending on what font your computer uses to render it, you may or may not have trouble seeing what I'm talking about.
This character demonstrates what happens to lines drawn diagonally from top left to bottom right, top right to bottom left. Notice that the stroke drawn from top-right to bottom-left (kinda like this: /) starts with a relatively thick line and ends with a relatively thin one; the top-left to bottom-right stroke (\) starts light (thin) and ends heavy (thick).
This is part of the style of Chinese characters, and is important if you want your writing to look nice. If you are a right-handed pen/pencil user, it comes fairly naturally to you and it has to do with the natural forces involved in writing. When you draw a line away from your hand, as your hand moves further away, less pressure is exerted and the angle of the pen changes. When drawing a line towards your hand, the pressure becomes greater as the pen moves towards your hand.
The changes in pressure and pen angle result in thicker line-endings in one direction, and thinner line-endings in the other. For a right-hander, this fairly naturally results in your curved lines looking like the ones in 文 above. For a left-hander, the opposite is natural.
I have managed to mostly overcome this by consciously drawing thin, light ends when they are required and heavy, thick ends when those are needed. This does not come naturally to me as it does to a right-hander, and has required some effort in order to make it a habit.
In my search for left-handed Chinese script writing tips (largely fruitless) I came across this video which explains left-handed writing issues to English-language primary school teachers and parents. I really, really wish that my parents & teachers had seen similar materials when I was learning to write, as I think that my style would be a whole lot better had I been taught according to some of the information in this video. If you're a leftie, you'll probably love this... if you're not, you might still find it interesting:
I think that's way too much for one post, I'll write about the remaining issues (curved lines, implements and paper) in my next update.