How learning the art of calligraphy helped me relax, unwind and discover mindfulness during a difficult period of my life.
Six years ago, towards the end of my maternity leave with my second child, I thought I was losing my mind. I was so utterly sleep-deprived that I could barely function: my body ached, my memory was going wonky and I felt like I could barely string a sentence together. The idea of returning to my copywriting job where I *actually* had to string a sentence together filled me with absolute horror.
It was at this point that my best friend bought me a set of calligraphy pens for my birthday. They sat on my desk for a while, looking all intimidating and complicated, but then one day I picked one up and started to write. I think I wrote my name and the word ‘hello’ about a thousand times, along with some swear words for laughs. None of it was any good or technically correct, but it didn’t matter. I felt a kind of peace and content-ness that I’d not felt for ages.
It sounds improbable but teaching myself calligraphy at that point in my life changed everything. I couldn’t seem to create a comprehensive sentence in my head, but when I started creating ART out of words, something seemed to click.
I’ve spent a while thinking about what it was that made such a difference and this is what I’ve concluded.
1. Calligraphy slows you down and keeps you present
Writing correctly with a brush-pen or dip-pen isn’t like writing with a normal pen. You have to unlearn things, hold the pen differently and really concentrate on what you’re doing - there’s not really time to wonder what you’re having for tea or what you should post next on Instagram because you’re focussing so hard on what you’re doing. It’s not often these days that we only focus on one thing and I found it really lovely.
2. It's ridiculously satisfying
Learning calligraphy means training your hand to do things slightly differently, which is hard and frustrating at first, but very soon your hand’s muscle-memory builds and the whole thing starts to come naturally. When I got the hang of it the sense of achievement was real!
3. It’s a holistic experience
Your hand holding the pen is only one part of the experience. To practise properly, you need to sit correctly, relax your muscles and breathe, otherwise you get all scrunched up very quickly. All good things!
4. It’s so very different to our normal way of writing
Hands up how many people mainly write at a laptop, tablet or phone these days. When we do put pen to paper, it's often a scribbled note, a hastily written list or suchlike. Calligraphy embraces the almost-lost-art of beautiful handwriting and offers a refreshing change from our daily grind. It certainly helped me when I needed it most.
If you’d like to learn calligraphy and you’re in lovely Leeds, check out when my next workshops are. If you’re elsewhere in the world, there are loads of amazing online resources – I highly recommend the Happy Ever Crafter.