Slice Of Life Story-The Trials Of A Left Handed Writer

Amazingly I learnt to write using my left hand. An achievement against the prevailing beliefs of the day. My very first teacher saw it as her mission in life to ‘fix’ the poor, wretched little boy suffering from what she clearly diagnosed as left handed disease. She must have thought, 'This child must be re formatted! If he remains left handed he will be forever condemned to writing in a scrawl that no one will be able to read. Ugly hand, ugly hand.'

...They tried to say it couldn't be done, it mustn't be done. They took the pencil out of my left hand and placed it in my right hand. It felt unnatural. It felt weird. It was not right. More to the point it was not left. I was not about to conform. At least they didn't try tying my hand behind my back. Watch me I said. I may be an oddball, left handed scribbler but I am a determined oddball. I mean how boring would the world be if everyone wrote with their right hand?

So I dug my toes in –and my hands too, I guess, and steadfastly resisted their horrible efforts to change my natural desire to be a left handed operator! Left handed liberty was what I wanted, and eventually I got the right to choose, –if you’ll pardon the pun. It was good enough for Alexander the Great to be left handed, not to mention Queen Victoria, Joan of Arc and Leonardo da Vinci as well as writers such as Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, and H.G. Wells. I figure I am in great company here!

Famed Indigenous author, Oodgeroo Noonnucal (aka Kath Walker) wrote about her experiences as a left handed student in her memoir piece, 'The Left-Hander' in 'Hands Up' stories compiled by Barbara Ker Wilson. She wrote, 'I soon realized that the Education Department in those days considered it wrong for a child to write or sew with the left hand. There were many painful scenes when I refused to pick up a pencil with my right hand; many times the Head Teacher;s ruler came down in full force on the knuckles of my left hand'

I have heard stories of fellow left handed writers having their left hand forcibly restrained to restrict them from doing what was natural for them. Thankfully educators now have a more enlightened view of we left handed writers. 

Throughout my schooling I persisted with my left handed writing. I was not the fastest note-taker on the planet, but my writing was always legible, reader friendly. I was hell bent on not being viewed as a scrawling scribbler. Sometimes the words of adults have long lasting consequence - both good and bad. I now know that initial diagnosis and the dire predictions of my teacher had a profound effect on my determination to prove her wrong.

 Only last week someone commented on my writing neatness. It always provides me with a small sense of validation, particularly knowing the back story.

Writing neatly, if I'm honest became something of an obsession. I never forgave them for trying to control my natural desire to remain a ‘leftie.’ I am therefore, by definition, a left wing writer...

Leave My Left Hand Alone, Right !

When I started school
A prep still unbranded
They looked at me strangely
And observed
He's left handed !
Well I was just five
And my left hand felt right
I didn't consider its use was a blight
You'll have to change hands
Learn to write like the rest
The news didn't please me
I found it a pest
They handed me crayons
Scissors and chalk
All in my right hand
But this didn't work
I scribbled and chopped
I felt quite bereft
I desperately needed the use of my left
I didn't conform
I continued to fight
The use of my left
Was a personal right
So they left me to write
With the hand of my choosing
And to this very day

It's the left I'm still using.

Alan j Wright

From: 'Searching For Hen's Teeth-Poetry From The Search Zone, Alan j Wright'


  1. "Sometimes the words of adults have long lasting consequence." Words to tattoo on the mind. Your writing is a testament to will power and desire to write. Looking at your notebook pages is a treat.

    1. Thank you Julieanne. Your comments are always welcomed. You have reminded me just how strong the desire to write actually beats within me. I once read that as educators we control the very climate of the classroom. We can be makers or breakers. Words certainly matter.

  2. As a fellow left-hander, I understand. Thankfully, no one ever tried to change my handiness. Life wasn't always easy, but persistence was present. My particular nemesis was spiral bound notebooks and right-handed desks.

    1. We lefties have many shared experiences Elsie. I recall those dreaded desks from my time in the states. The spiral bound notebooks are a curse. I think that's why I am so much against them. Cheap, nasty and discriminatory!

  3. Thanks for sharing your post. Your revealed the struggle and your determination so clearly. I was drawn to the post because I'm left-handed, I married a lefty and one of our 2 daughters is a lefty. In our family, it is that righty daughter that is the oddball!

    1. Wow Sally, lefties reign supreme in your family. I'm glad you liked my lefty lament.

  4. Oh - I so understand this!! For I am left handed writer as well!! There were many who tried to change me and a time that I tried to change myself. The year I tried I had trouble will all my learning. It was like it short circuited my thinking in all areas. So glad this has changed. I loved your poem and your writing is beautiful. I am not as neat as you but it is the ideas that matter most to me. Love this piece of writing!!

    1. My post has brought out the lefties it seems Joanne. So glad you saw something you identified with and appreciated in my piece. Thank you for your response.


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