Hand control

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When trouble comes along, call in the Martians.

Martians are more fun than line after line of pattern exercises. They serve the same purpose, and anybody can make them.

You start with two circles for the eyes, and a circle for the mouth. One more circle around them makes a head. (Remember to start the circles at the top, and make the left side first.)

The eyes give the face an expression. They’re easier than you think. (The three on the right are the same as the three on the left, turned upside-down.)

Find your level
How can you mend an uneven tilt and a wavy baseline? First, find what you CAN do, and learn to do it well. Then tackle more demanding stuff. This may sound self-evident. But to a discouraged beginner it isn’t. It is a lifeline.

Start from a firm foundation. Are your zigzags good and even? Then try letters. And trace them before you write them. Paper with lines may not be enough. Use squared paper instead as long as you like.

If your own zigzags are not even, despite all your efforts, trace zigzags. Connect dots. Does your hand obey you? Practise until your pen finds its target. (Never mind what the line looks like. That comes later.)

Think of hand control exercises as a staircase. If they’re too hard, you can go down a step and practise something easier. When you’re ready, you can go up a step. Just take one step at a time. That will take you all the way to the top.

How to make a Martian

An oval head with big eyes is a good start. Give it a crescent of a grin.

Use a zigzag to make sharp teeth, and put black dots in the eyes.

Add a collar and long ears, and you’ve got a Martian.

Even Martians need discipline. The points of the teeth should go all the way to the lips, but not beyond them. The collar should touch the jawline, but not go across it.

Improve your aim
Sometimes, your hand may go in its own direction when you want it to go somewhere else. This is not just a beginner’s problem. Most people could do with better control of their hands. Exercises help. Slowing down is useful. And where you look can also make a difference.

Don’t look at the pen. Look at the point where it’s going. (When you try to catch a ball that’s flying through the air, you don’t look at your hands. You keep your eyes on the ball.) Let the pen in your hand find its own way. Try this a few times, and you’ll see what I mean.

Tracing works
If your writing is uneven, trace a line of the model text a few times before you try writing it. Do it much slower than you would write.

If your writing has an uneven slant, trace zigzags. If zigzags are too difficult, draw a few dozen Martians. Then go back to zigzags. They’ll probably be easier then before. (Zigzags are easier on lined paper than blank, and even easier on squared paper.)


If even zigzags and Martians are too hard, trace your own squiggles.

Make a squiggle with your own hand, and trace it carefully several times. Then draw another, and trace that for a while. In time, this will be too easy for you to continue. Then it’s time for zigzags and for writing. And whenever your hand wants to go its own way, you know how you can take control again.