Practice makes not quite as bad

People who get to know me eventually find out that I have terrible handwriting. My children have mocked me for it. My boyfriend can’t read my grocery lists unless I text them. This is not a recent problem that I can blame on middle age. My parents asked me to stop writing home from college because they couldn’t read my letters.

I could blame it on the hippie free school I attended for third grade; I was busy learning all of the words to the Yellow Submarine album while other kids my age were learning to write cursive. When I got to a somewhat more “normal” school for 4th grade, I had to play catch-up and learn handwriting in a big hurry.

I could blame all those college classes where I took super fast notes, my handwriting getting worse and worse each semester, so that now I can’t even read some of my own notes to myself.

What does this SAY??

Or maybe I’m just a bit sloppy and lazy.

Regardless of where the fault lies, it’s the truth. When I had to learn to write with my left hand after I broke my wrist a year ago last January, I was surprised to find that I could actually read my plodding, careful left-handed writing BETTER than my usual scribbles!

So now I will attempt something I have never tried before: calligraphy. (The Western kind.) I studied a little Japanese and Chinese language in school, but I was never terribly good at writing those characters clearly either.

Thanks to Michaels craft stores, I now have a set of calligraphy pens with ink cartridges and nibs, with a little instruction book.

My first attempts were painful. I kept getting the angle of the pen to the paper wrong, and the ink would stop flowing. There was a lot of cursing. It’s slow going, each letter. I began by tracing over the examples in the booklet the first few days. There was even more cursing the further I got into the curves and shapes for different letters. I developed a headache.

I could see that I was going to have to take this just a little bit at a time, for fear of getting overly frustrated. I began to figure out, after a few days of the cursing and tapping my nib (ok, hitting it) on the paper to get the ink going, how the angle should look. Some letters were definitely easier than others.

gs are hard

But on the whole, calligraphy requires more precision than I have asked of myself in my creativity blog adventures thus far. Yes, pastry baking did require a certain level of precision (measuring, kneading, folding, temperatures, times, etc.), or the results could be unsightly, or even inedible.

With collaging I allowed myself to be very imprecise, and I liberally used big globs of paint to cover a multitude of sins.

But this is different. You can see all your mistakes. (And I make a lot of them.) Technically, you’re supposed to get a certain kind of paper and razors so you can “scrape out” your errors, but that seems too hard for me at this point. For right now I’m just going to plug away at the different shapes and forms until it stops seeming so awfully foreign to me.

One thing that is actually helping is that fact that I learned something about stroke order writing Chinese/Japanese characters – you have to write them in a certain way, in the correct order. You can’t go from down, up when you’re supposed to go from up, down. So following the instructions in the book with those kinds of directions makes sense to my brain.

Once, just once each, I made a couple of letters that seemed really beautiful.

I especially liked the j because my daughter’s name is Julianne. And guess what! When I told her I was trying to learn calligraphy, she said that she is doing that too! She is using brush markers and learning more modern styles than I am working on, but it’s still cool that we are accidentally doing something so similar at the same time.

I will keep working away. Practice, as I have learned studying music, is everything.


3 thoughts on “Practice makes not quite as bad

  1. mcastinoreid says:

    Wonderful post! And I’m thinking of how this adventure with calligraphy will likely produce better handwriting AND new activity for your brain. (Not that there’s anything wrong with it…)

    As a kid, my parents enrolled me in calligraphy classes at the Edina Art Center. I still like using those skills and playing around with lettering. I also addressed all my wedding invites in calligraphy. I bet recipients were at least A LITTLE impressed?
    Again, nice post. 🙂


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