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the girl with violets in her lap [userpic]

August 12th, 2010 (06:00 pm)

So, as noted, I've been doing "mirror writing" for years. I picked it up from a friend in high school who had learned to write her name and a few other phrases in mirror writing. I thought it was totally cool, and I picked it up easily. I loved it because it meant I could write (non-class-related) notes in class, and if the teacher caught me and tried to read the note aloud, s/he would get stuck standing in front of the whole class, staring foolishly at a sheet they couldn't read. I think one of my teachers thought I knew Cyrillic.

So it was fun, and I was sort of proud of the fact that I knew how to do it, but I never figured the fact that I could do it was really anything special. It seemed easy enough to pick up -- I couldn't write it in fluently the first time I tried, but I don't think it took me any longer than a few days or so to write in it as well as I do now.* I figured the only reason most people couldn't do it was that they'd never bothered to learn.

Except just now I came across a website about it, and, man, either the research studies that have been done about this are totally unreliable or else this mirror writing thing is just one more piece of proof that my brain is bonkers. There seems to be some consensus that an ability to mirror-write is actually genetic, with one site hypothesizing that it is the "phenotypic expression of an X-linked dominant gene," which... okay! Sure. More interesting, although not all that much more comprehensible, is the part where it says "It is hypothesised that mirror writers may comprise a very small group of people who not only have bilateral language centres but also have an interconnecting pathway between these centres via the corpus callosum." Man, I wish I knew what that meant. I did, however, grok the part where it said mirror-writing ability is linked to a family history of dyslexia (my dad's dyslexic), to synesthesia, and to a variety of autistic-spectrum disorders, including Rett's Syndrome. (Autistic spectrum REPRESENT, yo! NLD WHAT)

I've known for a long time that my brain is trippy as hell, of course. The NLD label is very useful but it doesn't actually fit me 100% (I'm quite good at reading people's emotions), and the various other issues I have -- bipolar, SID, seizure disorder, sleep disorder, etc. -- all seem to be linked together in some weird way and yet no one's come up with one diagnosis to cover them yet. And now here's one more thing. Mirror writing! The awesome thing about this one is that I actually like it.

Anyway, so there is all of that, and I was very curious/intrigued when I read all the material suggesting that mirror writing was an unusual skill, but I'm still not sure I believe it. It was pretty heavy on the hypotheses, and a few of the statistics they offered were just bogus (they ran an ad in a 65,000-circulation paper asking people who could read the following block of mirror writing text in under a minute to participate in a study; of those who did the study, ten could do mirror writing; they therefore divided 65,000 by ten and decided 1 in 6500 people can mirror-write. WTF, WORST STATISTICAL ANALYSIS EVER). I'm guessing it's a *hell* of a lot more common than that. But can everybody, or virtually everybody, learn to do it with ease, like I originally assumed? I would like to know.

Have you ever tried mirror writing before?

Yes, and I can do it fluently
Yes, and I can do it haltingly
Yes, and I can write a few words or something
Yes, and I can do print but not cursive
Yes, and I couldn't do it
Only when I needed to write HELP! I'M TRAPPED IN THE BLACKBOARD! or something

If you can do mirror-writing, how long did it take you to learn?

I didn't have to learn -- as a kid I began writing in reverse naturally and had to learn to write straight
I had no trouble with it the first time I tried
It took me a little practicing, but not much
A long time
I had to/have to work at it and concentrate still

Okay, so say you're not a mirror-writer. And also say you're bored at work or something. Go try to write some stuff in mirror writing. (Sometimes it's easier with the left hand, whether you're righty or lefty.) How'd it go?

I could probably learn
Total mindfuck, sorry
I would like to help you with this very much except for the part where I don't care

Do you think those poor people trapped in the blackboard ever got out?

Yeah, don't worry, I drew them a door
No, they'll pound forever on the sheets of chalkboard; they're the men who'll never return

What about the ones trapped in the mirror-steam, though? I worry about them too.

Aw. I'm sorry to inform you that they get eaten by Bloody Mary
I'm sorry to inform you that they ARE Bloody Mary
Oh God, what the hell are we even talking about anymore?
You know, maybe if we just wrote Bloody Mary a nice note in mirror writing saying we didn't have her kid, she'd leave us all alone. Ever think of that?
Aren't there supposed to be wombats here? Aren't wombats supposed to rescue all these terrible polls by plunking down at the end of them and forcing them to stop?
I want to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in A Little Night Music!
I want to see Elaine Stritch play Bloody Mary in a musical about bathroom mirrors!



*And yes, some of my mirror letters are weirdly shaped or malformed. My straight handwriting is sort of idiosyncratic and not at all Palmer standard, which makes things a little weird sometimes.


Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 12th, 2010 11:25 pm (UTC)

It would probably take me some practice to learn to read it, but I just tried writing it for the first time, and it WAS easy. With my left hand, anyway. With my right, I could do it - it wasn't an effort to keep track of letter shapes or anything - but I've been full-time lefty for the last couple weeks, and haven't held a pen in my right hand in all that time, and seem to have forgotten how a little. I'm taking that as evidence that I never really was right handed to begin with, if it's that easy to just forget twenty years of training and practice.

Posted by: Morgan (banshea)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 07:58 am (UTC)

Honestly, I switch hands all the time. Every new activity, I have to figure out which hand is better for it (I write and eat with my left hand, I use scissors with my right, everything else is a crap shoot). I discovered that I was capable of fencing equally well with my left or right hands, but that I was strongly left-footed so I had to be a lefty because of that. I've cut myself a few times because I forgot which hand to hold the knife in -- just because one hand seems like the right choice on an instinctive level doesn't mean I've practiced using it in this activity. Also, the bit that I find particularly strange is that whenever I mime writing, I use my non-writing hand to hold the "pen".

My experience is that handedness is actually a lot like sexuality. You can be all the way one way, or all the way the other, but there's also a lot of shades in between. My experience is also that nurture plays a much bigger role than nature. Our culture assumes that "handedness" is a valid concept and teaches us to be either a lefty or a righty. This gets taught at a young enough age, and gets reinforced so often by daily tool use, that it never even occurs to most people to question the concept.

Oh god, I find myself wanting to write an essay on the parallels between handedness and sexuality/gender, but it's 1am here and I have an early morning. I'll just shorten the whole thing down to the fact that I find it hilarious that I am both mostly ambidextrous and mostly bisexual.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 13th, 2010 12:24 pm (UTC)

I was raised righty, and some things I still do right handed, but EVERYTHING that I wasn't specifically taught to do with my right hand, I do with my left. It is a lot like sexuality and gender, too - both my handedness and my gender identity are flexible, but leaning towards the opposite of what I was raised to be.

I did realize when my mother was first teaching me to write that something was wrong, but apparently I couldn't put it into words well enough to convey it to her, because she never got that I wasn't right handed. Eventually I just started taking her word for it. I started teaching myself to write lefty in high school - my best friend was a lefty, I copied the way she held the pen - and, as I said, stopped writing righty entirely last week.

(I can read upside down easily, since a few people have commented on that ability. Reading mirror writing takes work, but upside down, piece of cake.)

Posted by: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: August 14th, 2010 08:24 pm (UTC)

I was raised right-handed but I realised a few years ago that I do pretty much everything else with my left. Certainly my left is the stronger hand for opening bottles and stuff! Occasionally when I'm writing, I feel like having the pen in my right hand is wrong and I often get confused with which hand my knife and fork should be in. I can write reasonably well with my left hand, it just looks rather childish but that's probably due to lack of use.

I'm intrigued that you've switched from using your right to write with. Was this something that you worked up to?

(Amusingly, I can also read upside down easily, whether it's handwritten or print.)

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 14th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I had to work up to it - I started teaching myself to write lefty when I was fifteen, and was completely awful at it at first. I could do it, it didn't feel wrong or anything, but it was painfully slow and looked messy. Of course, I've always had trouble keeping my handwriting neat - I spent years getting yelled at for my messy writing and basically forced myself to learn to do better with my right hand - but with my left, it was sort of illegible the first couple times I've tried. It's taken ten years of practice, on and off, to get to the point where I'm more comfortable writing lefty than righty - but now that I've gotten there, writing with my right hand feels WEIRD, and is SO MUCH sloppier than lefty. I may still be a little slow writing with my left hand, but it doesn't take any effort at all to make it look neat!

But yeah, through high school and college until I realized I was probably a lefty, I'd often catch myself eating with the wrong hand - sometimes I wouldn't even notice until someone pointed it out to me. And when I was learning to drive, it was a bit problematic that I got left and right mixed up! I don't still - now that I've stopped associating "right hand" and "dominant hand" in my mind, it's much easier to remember which is which.

Posted by: Nathaniel Wolfthorn (ganimede)
Posted at: August 18th, 2010 09:21 am (UTC)

I got told off a lot for messy writing when I was young too. I remember when we were old enough to move onto using pens rather than pencils, I got told several times to return to using a pencil as my writing with a pen was unacceptable. Of course, it didn't help that we were using fountain pens but even so, I had a lot of trouble writing neatly. It's funny because these days I often get complimented on my neat writing but that's because I really have to work at making it neat. If I'm in a hurry or just writing something for myself, it's all over the place.

I've also had problems getting left and right mixed up. It can be really embarrassing! I didn't link it to issues with being right or left handed though. Hmm, that's given me a lot to think about.

Posted by: Damian (fanboy_of_zeus)
Posted at: August 18th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)

Yeah, after years of effort and lectures, I managed to develop really good handwriting with my right hand. It was never easy, but it looked nice. (Of course, now that I've put that much effort into learning how the letters are supposed to be formed, it looks just as nice with my left hand - and IS easy.)

I could never get the hang of fountain pens, though. We did all our official schoolwork writing in ballpoint, but they let us use fountain pens for fun sometimes, and I always ended up with more ink on my hands then on the paper.

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