It was 2015, I was finishing up my final semester of college, and I was beyond the point of overwhelmed. My mind was constantly racing through all of the items on my to-do list and rest was not something I was able to enjoy regularly. When I got my first supplies, I felt a wave of relief as I began to create new letterforms. I was able to turn off my over-thinking and enjoy making beautiful things. I want to share this joy with as many people as I can!
I was a senior in college working on my Bachelor’s in Foundational Mathematics. I had a vague plan about what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t sure about the roadmap. I chose my major because I enjoyed math and because it felt like a very practical option. I knew that I would certainly be able to find a job if I had a degree in Math. I was hopeful that I would become a teacher, but very uncertain about life post-college.
All of the pressure of math homework, tests, graduating, dating, living far away from my family, and any other normal stressors for 21 year olds were really taking a toll on me. I have never excelled at leaving balance in my life for rest and rejuvenation, which is why I was feeling like I was running completely on empty.
I went to the craft store and tried to find some brush pens with absolutely no idea what to look for. I found some cheap pens with bristles that I thought might do the trick. They did not work out how I had hoped they would, but I still enjoyed trying them out a lot more than I expected to. Slowly, I began to learn more about calligraphy and found different styles of brush pens that I liked.
As my interest grew, I began to try any kind of brush pen that I could find. I thought that there would be NO WAY I could ever be good at writing with brush pens because they were so impossible. It makes me laugh when I think about it now! I was so frustrated because it took so much work to get good at this. But it helped me to stop, breathe, and relax as I entered into my post-college life.
As is the usual story, life did not pan out exactly according to plan after college. It took me longer than I wanted to get started in the credential program (which was actually only one semester, but at the time it felt defeating). During this time, I spent a lot of time building up my Instagram and Etsy accounts. I started selling prints and cards. Eventually, I was calligraphing escort cards and invitations for weddings. I couldn’t believe it because it was never something I had pictured myself doing.
At the end of the summer in 2016, I was hired as a first grade teacher. This is where calligraphy started to fall into a new roll in my life. Once I accepted the job as a first grade teacher, I started to back away from my side job as a calligrapher. It’s interesting how something that is meant to relax you can so quickly change into another point of stress. This is when I decided to take a step back from any and all wedding calligraphy. It had quickly become something that drained me and stressed me out more than it filled me up.
Something that I’ve loved the most about learning calligraphy and participating in the Instagram community are all of the encouraging, kind people I’ve met. Calligraphy has been an easy access point for me to encourage others, make them smile, and show how much I care about them. It’s so much more than a hobby that I want to do to make extra money on the side. I’d love to add the joy and grace that I’ve received from calligraphy to other people’s lives.
My love for calligraphy was rejuvenated when I began to see an opportunity to encourage other women to be okay with the seasons and the process. I began to find joy in finding words that built others up rather than words that were ‘popular’ or based upon what I might be able to sell. I started to find joy in the words themselves and the connection I found with other people – whether those people were fellow calligraphers or not.
There is an intense sense of comparison that has become magnified by the continued use of social media. It’s quick and easy to find someone who is better than you at something and someone that you feel you’re better than. There will always be someone who travels more than you do or has ‘better’ home decor than you do. You might find yourself thinking things like, “If only I were as good as ______.” Or “At least I’m not as bad as ________.” Or “I can’t do this because _______ is doing that.” And we push each other away because we are intimidated by our presence online and yet we are also dying for a real connection. It’s a really unfortunate reality that has come along with social media.
I found a new joy in calligraphy as I began to combat these lies. You have to be bad at something to get better at it. If you want to travel more, then you need to prioritize it and make it happen. If you want to be good at something, then you need to practice. You can’t just show up and expect to already be great at something. I found a new joy as I realized that I can do whatever it is that I want to, if only I’d be willing to put in some effort.
So, if you’re thinking about starting to learn calligraphy, if you’re frustrated about where you are at in your process of learning calligraphy, or if you’re a professional calligrapher, remember these three things:
- You are your own worst critic.
Your art brings joy and kindness into other people’s lives. It reminds us all to slow down and take some extra time to write a handwritten note. It brings a smile to people’s faces when they see it. You see all of your flaws, but others do not. Do not tear yourself down in an effort to be humble or real. Be okay with where you are at and keep working hard.
- You don’t have to be the best – you should just be you.
You don’t need to have more followers than so-and-so. You don’t need to sell more products, have better reviews, or make more unique products. You just need to be true to who you are and create what you find beautiful. Don’t forget why you got started and don’t be afraid of hard work.
- When you’re tired, take a break.
You may feel like taking a break will slow your progress or lose your momentum, but I’ve found that NOT taking a break when you need one creates bigger problems. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is pause. Stop what you’re doing, stop striving for more, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Take a breath. This will give you more creativity, more freedom, and more joy!
*This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fulfill orders or promises you’ve already made, but it does mean trying not to take on more when you’re already overwhelmed.
Each of our stories look different, but we all started with a common goal: beauty. You wanted to create something beautiful for someone that you love. Keep that feeling, that love alive and continue to use your talents to add beauty, grace, and joy to the world.