A Writer’s Hands
Have you ever noticed those photos of hands that some people use for blog headers or advertising? You may have seen an ad for an editing service or a proofreading business that shows a pair of hands on a keyboard. Anyone who sees the ad would likely be convinced the company knows how to edit. The text in the ad would explain about the service. Schools many times use hands in their ads or on their website. A photo of hands on a keyboard or a hand holding a pen are common. Sometimes all you see are the fingers on the keyboard, not the whole hand. I could expand on types of ads, but I will stick to those writing-related.
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The hands are usually young hands with manicured nails polished in pretty colors. Some wear jewelry to show their individuality, whether tastefully conservative, artistic, boho, glittering jewels or antique. The hands you see typing or using a pen to write in a notebook can be neatly summed up into one category. Color. The hands are usually White.
One of the images often seen shows a woman typing on a laptop as she works at her favorite coffee shop. Another image marketers use features a young girl sitting cross-legged on her bedroom floor, writing in her journal with purple ink pen or pink gel pen, whatever they use these days. The girl writes by hand in cursive, sometimes for the world to see, or other times for her eyes only. But the hands are usually White.
The setting can vary from a library, a classroom, a woman writing on a park bench, or a young girl at the beach. The girl is spread out on a blanket typing on the laptop she brought from home. She’s writing a novel, or a short story, a poem. Slowly, no hurry, yet her hands stay busy. They are tan from her days at the beach, but they are White.
Busy moms are a common theme in advertisements. Moms who write at the kitchen table while their young child plays happily on the floor; Moms writing at the bookstore cafe while their daughter or son searches the shelves; or Moms sitting on the sofa, writing on a tablet, the coffee table serving as a desk. A bassinet over in the corner represents Moms who write while their baby naps. One Mom’s hands busily type the article she’s submitting to a magazine today. Her hands, all the Moms’ hands, are White.
You may come across a photo of an older woman writing her first book or her tenth, maybe a letter to her grandchildren, or she’s recording her memoirs which she plans to publish one day. Advertisements with women taking classes at the Community Center are common. Ads that promote self-improvement and a better life use strong language and large fonts.
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Of course, hands are prominent in the photos. These are directed at retirees, empty-nesters, or anyone at a quieter time of life, possibly unemployed. A gray-haired woman sits at her desk with a blank notebook in front of her. She gazes out the window while holding a new pen she bought for her first day as a writer. What is she thinking about? The blank paper represents so many chances to begin putting her thoughts down on the page. The hands that hold the pen are White.
This post isn’t meant to be a thesis on race, inequality or poverty, although those are important topics. In my opinion, the advertising world is getting better but they have a long way to go in selecting models to represent products and services. All these examples are stereotypes, someone’s preconceived notion of what a writer looks like. Maybe it’s just a habit. Those are the types of hands and the color that’s always been used.
I just wanted to analyze the images of hands I see so often and explore my observations. Why do I notice the color of these hands? Why does the subject of hands pop into my mind when I see these types of ads or images? Why is this topic relevant enough for me to write about in a blog? What do hands mean to me? The characters I write about, not all, are white. Like me. I’ll try to go beyond color.
I’ve taken several art classes. I love to draw and paint. A teacher once said that hands are the most difficult part of the body to draw accurately and I believe it. The hands on my drawing page looked nothing like the model’s hands!
Children have an easier time with art and writing because they don’t censor themselves. If they feel like using a pink crayon, a blue one or a white crayon, they just do it without thinking or debating. Color plays no role in their life. Color just IS.
Maybe I notice the color of hands because I’m a writer. I notice people who later become inspiration in my stories. Voices, mannerisms, facial expressions, hair, eyes-these have given me inspiration to base a character on or to deepen that character’s personality. I think it’s also difficult to write about hands. I don’t want to only write “He reached out with his hand” or “She folded her hands together.” I admire writers who describe people and their actions with originality, who go beyond the usual.
Ten years ago, I broke my wrist when I fell. It was my fault because I was standing on the toilet seat to reach the top of a cabinet so I could dust up there. Who was going to inspect anyway? The seat was down but it slid, then I fell, hitting my head many times. I can still remember the sound of my right hand smacking the wooden cabinet over and over again like I was doing it on purpose. The surgeon placed eight screws and two titanium plates in my wrist. During the six weeks I wore the cast, I learned to do everything with my left hand. Things I used to do so easily such as brushing my teeth, combing my hair, and showering were difficult. Holding a fork was impossible so I ate with a spoon. I never realized how many times I used my hands until I tried to drink my morning coffee and dropped the cup on the floor.
I was so worried that I would never be able to write with my right hand again although my left did an okay job scribbling. Typing with the fingers of my left hand was better. At least people would be able to read whatever I wrote. My physical therapist probably thought I was too concerned with being able to write instead of daily activities of living that a normal person needs.
I’m not normal. I’m a writer, and the ability to write is something I’ve always loved. If I couldn’t write, it would make me feel hopeless. Sure, I could speak into a microphone and let the computer type my book. But that wouldn’t be fun. I wrote on my blog about things a writer does and talking to a computer wasn’t one of them. Maybe I should update that post. https://bookplaces.blog/what-does-a-writer-do/
My wrist healed and it works the same as ever thanks to God and my talented surgeon. The scar isn’t ugly. I see the scar every day when I reach for my coffee cup, when I brush my hair or put lotion on my hands and of course, when I write.