Chinese writer and calligrapher Feng Tang never leaves home without his fountain pen. Handwriting, he says, not only boosts his creativity, it helps him relax and process his thoughts and emotions and make sense of the world.
"Writing helps me process... it helps me slow down and find a balance. It doesn't just help me create, writing helps me escape the busyness of work and life," he said in a recent online session organised by luxury pen, watch and leather goods brand Montblanc to promote their #InspireWriting initiative.
Trained as a gynaecologist, the 49-year-old writer said that he discovered the benefits of writing when he was in medical school at the Peking Union Medical College in Beijing, China in the 1990s. Back then, he would spend what little spare time he had practising his handwriting. This habit continued even after he left his medical practice and joined the global management consulting firm McKinsey as a consultant.
"At meetings, I'd often be the only one writing notes with a pen and paper, and not using a laptop or tablet," he shared.
Feng Tang, who recently launched the luxury brand's first official Chinese font, is among Montblanc's Mark Makers (inspiring and influential individuals who make their mark on the world through their creative pursuits) who are leading the #InspireWriting initiative. The initiative was launched in June, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as an avenue for people the world over to find some solace through handwriting.
Montblanc's executive vice president of marketing Vincent Montalescot extols the many benefits of writing: The scratching of nib on paper, the flow of ink giving shape to thoughts and the slow and deliberate pace of writing are what he deems "handwriting happiness".
"While recent circumstances have proved challenging for communities around the world, many have found comfort and enjoyment in the art of handwriting, sharing messages of hope with loved ones or finding ways to express their creativity," said Montalescot.
"At Montblanc, we believe there is such a thing as 'handwriting happiness', the joy many people are finding from capturing their thoughts and emotions in writing. With this initiative, we are encouraging them to reap the benefits of putting pen to paper and share the pleasure with others," he added.
The benefits of writing by hand, Montalescot said, is available to anyone."Writing is powerful. It allows us to express ourselves, to process and articulate emotions through the power of words. Putting pen to paper helps us observe, capture and process the many twists and turns that shape our existence, particularly in the most challenging time.
"In recent months, handwriting has helped me escape the distractions of the digital world and explore a different kind of creative outlet," shared Montalescot.
In the #InspireWriting initiative, Feng Tang and the brand's other Mark Makers will set writing challenges and exercises for people to follow on Instagram. This will then be featured on Montblanc's Instagram page (it has over 1,000 posts already) and website.
The exercises and tips show how we can add more handwriting into our lives – simple things like choosing a quote, poem, song lyric or affirmation and writing it down on paper. It doesn't matter if the writing isn't perfect; the point is to enjoy the process of writing.
Another exercise suggests that we go to a quiet spot, take a few deep breaths, and put our thoughts onto paper for 15 to 30 minutes. Once again, it doesn't really matter if your handwriting is legible or if our thoughts are profound or just random words – the exercise is simply to let our mind flow.
Or, we could carry a notebook around and write down things we notice that are funny, beautiful, surprising, delightful or sad. And, perhaps the most popular exercise would be to compose a letter to a friend you haven't spoken to for a while or surprise your partner or flatmate with a handwritten positive note.
For Feng Tang, who insists on writing all his manuscripts with a fountain pen, writing is a quiet process of reflection that calms the mind and the spirit.
"Writing is something that everyone can do. It is inherently thoughtful and emotional. Handwriting is always associated with life and warmth, unlike typing on a cold computer keyboard," he says, adding that the Montblanc Simplified Chinese Feng Tang Font is a graphical reinterpretation of his handwriting style.