Handwriting is overrated

“How’s your handwriting?” she asked. I’m seeing a new MCAS specialist and she is digging into every area of my life.

Even my deepest, darkest, writerly secrets. 

“Uh, not great,” I said, thinking of the bottom cabinet drawer in my kitchen. The one I never open. A rash began to prickle along the right side of my neck. 

“Can you give me a handwriting sample?” she asked.

I stretched my hand, picked up a black pen, and wrote the following:

This handwriting test is significantly more comfortable than skin biopsies or brain swabs, less nerve-racking than a blood draw, and certainly less disgusting than harvesting a poop sample. However, as my hand starts to cramp, I would argue a pee test is easiest. 

Although my service dog may disagree. 

While Sancho is a master at the bathroom stall tuck, I struggle to maneuver my body gracefully in cramped places. I am stunned when clinics do not have ADA compliant bathrooms, let alone expect me to collect a sample in a space smaller than a bathtub. My unsteady hands do not discriminate between water, precious coffee, or in this case, urine. Just ask my sometimes pee sprinkled poodle.

So, I suppose you have a valid reason for this test.

On a scale of 1-10, I want to cut my hand off now, because it’s cramping and shaky. 

Keeya's handwriting sample
My handwriting sample


I started journaling at age 7, when my grandma gave me a diary for Christmas. From then on, I knew I wanted to be a writer. However, it took several decades to realize I’m a humor writer.

Picture of Keeya's 1994 journal
December 6, 1994: “Today I desided to be a writer. I am a good speller…”

Aspiring writers are quickly taught the benefits of handwriting. A pen and paper help us access our feelings and unleash creativity. There’s even science to back it up. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, goes so far as to say, “Writing by computer is a more shallow practice.” 

My journals are my most prized possession. I have at least one for every year of my childhood, preserving my best stories. However, as I got older, handwriting became more difficult. I struggled to focus on my story as the ache in my hand became unbearable. Eventually, I got a laptop, but guilt reminded me I should be filling notebooks.

When I was diagnosed with MCAS, I stopped arguing with my body. I assumed my mast cells were causing the weakness in my hands. Handwriting was unnecessarily hard with keyboards and dictation so readily available. I accepted my disability. Kind of. 

I stopped handwriting, but I kept buying notebooks. Lots of notebooks: standard size spirals, pocket pads, designer bound journals. I stuffed them into the bottom drawer of my kitchen until they weighed so much the drawer almost broke.

Picture of 37 notebooks of various size and two toy sized poodles
So many empty notebooks.
Photo of two notebooks made from vintage books
To be fair, some were gifts from friends with equally morbid senses of humor.

I’m still clinging onto an image of what a writer should look like, but this is definitely not it.


As soon as I finished my writing sample, I chucked my pen across the table. My hand throbbed for at least 20 minutes. I sent my specialist a picture of the page.

“It looks good!” she responded encouragingly. She is more worried about my tremors and imbalance. I should be too, but right now I’m disappointed she didn’t definitively ban me from notebooks like she banned me from gluten. That would be so much easier than facing my feelings.

I know in my heart, or at least my hand, this is the end of The Drawer of Empty Pages.

9 thoughts on “Handwriting is overrated

  1. I have Ehlers, along with MCAS. I have been assuming my awful writing and cramps were from Ehlers. Hmmm.

  2. I’m a home health nurse in the middle of nowhere and we still do hand written documentation. Some days the back of my hand swells and hurts so bad. It really makes me miss the days of fighting with the tablet at my previous job.

  3. Hi Keeya! I am a writer too… Emerging from the shadows. Ha! Taking my first Childrens Book Beginners class next week through The Loft. Don’t have any additional diagnosis in Dysautonamia category. My MCAS fortunately is not the severe kind with anaphylaxis type reactions. Get chronic illness though and the trauma that goes with it. Chronic Lyme is my “monster” to contend… or “make friends” with. 🙂

  4. I have been trying to find information on MCAS and handwriting because I’m having issues with my fingers going numb and my hands feeling very stiff and painful out of the blue. My handwriting also is atrocious most of the time and my hands struggle with cursive especially, having difficulty writing unless they are writing very quickly. When I try to slow down and write well my hands start feeling strange and speed up whether I want them to or not. The issues with my handwriting started in middle school and have gotten worse the older I’ve gotten to the point that I sometimes can’t even make out what I’ve written. I too have taken to ruling everything out, especially forms for doctors offices. About 2 months ago I was having a bad reaction and went to the ER. I literally couldn’t make my hand sign my name when I was leaving. It would not move to do it. Unfortunately the ER told me it was all anxiety and I just got up and left because they were no help. I’d really like to find some information about MCAS and handwriting but the only thing that comes up when I Google s this post. Any idea where I can get info on this? My provider who treats my MCAS is a PA in an allergy/immunology clinic and she does treat some MCAS patients but she’s not an MCAS specialist and my r cent symptoms have her stumped

  5. The amount of time I just want to cut off my hands is too much! They don’t straighten out. When my hands are tested in RA appointments, for the rest of the day my hands throb and hurt so badly. I was only allowed one OT appointment over 5 years ago, when then I was told I had the grip strength of an 85 year old woman. It’s even worse now! I’m 45. My hands curl up like a T Rex! And people always tell me to get a hobby. I ask them to name a hobby where my hands aren’t involved at all. I used to love writing. Stories, never managed a journal. I was a pretty good Tyler. Now it’s just pointer fingers with each hands.

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