Do you ever find yourself stuck in the comparison trap? You scroll endlessly through Instagram, swooning over impossibly beautiful photos of calligraphy and other artwork that you have carefully curated in your feed, and you start feeling this pit in your stomach that makes you feel like you can never be as good as “that calligrapher.” I have too. And it’s a miserable feeling. Sometimes it can be so defeating that it makes you want to just quit and stick to what is comfortable and easy.
Today I want to encourage you to not give in to those feelings, and I want to provide some actionable tips to help overcome that crazy self-doubt cycle. I also want to tell you about an exciting FREE supplies class I’m doing this Friday at 11am CDT on Instagram LIVE with Karla Lim @writtenwordcalligraphy. I hope you will be there. I’m also going to give you a list of some helpful resources I have created for beginner calligraphers. Hint: most of them are FREE.
Resources for Beginner Calligraphy
I have a few new people to my Instagram account and newsletter lately, so I thought I’d give you a little list of resources that are available. I literally have a ton of resources on this website, so I hope you’ll take some time to browse around and find information that can help you in your calligraphy learning.
- Instructional videos for forming every lower case stroke and letter in my IGTV. You will want to scroll to the bottom of it to start at the beginning.
- Series of blog articles addressing all the main aspects of getting started with calligraphy
- Free printable guidelines and worksheets for practicing strokes, drills and other fun things.
- How to choose the right nib for you
- Shopping list for supplies you need to get started
- Beginner Copperplate and Brush Calligraphy Worksheets for traceable calligraphy practice
- Virtual calligraphy school with classes on a variety of techniques that will enhance your calligraphy projects
- Weekly live classes on different subjects, such as Engrosser’s script, envelope addressing, flourishing, and ipad Procreate
I see a lot of self-doubt when it comes to assessing the beauty of your own calligraphy. This is completely normal and something I think that every calligrapher probably feels most of the time–including me! This week I’ve been in a couple of different discussions on Instagram about this topic, and if you follow me, you may have read one of them on my own feed.
One of the more harmful things we can do in calligraphy and in life is to compare ourselves to another person. We must remember that each person is on their own journey. They started at a different time and place than we did, they have a different set of life circumstances to navigate than we do, and they have different drives and natural abilities as well. My mom once told me, “If we hung our troubles on a line, you would take yours and I would take mine.”
And therein lies the secret. We all have our own road to walk, our own troubles to experience, and our own goals to reach. We are not helped in the least by analyzing our progress as compared to another person’s. It’s like trying to compare apples to oranges.
Instead, we should only compare our progress to the day before in our own journey. By taking our eyes off of everyone else, and placing them directly ahead, focusing on the goal we are aiming to reach, we can let go of the need to compare ourselves and our work to others and just appreciate it for what it is. So I’ve made a list of some questions to ask ourselves when we find we are in that dangerous cycle of admiration, self-disappointment, guilt, and self-deprecation that fuels itself and reinforces the belief that we’ll never measure up.
Questions to Ask Ourselves
- What is my goal with calligraphy?
- What am I doing to reach my goal?
- Did I put an adequate amount of practice time in today?
- If I did not, was it because of poor time management, lack of desire, or is this simply not the best time in my life to have daily practice and see my skills improve?
- If I did practice adequately, what specific areas of my calligraphy do I feel need more work?
- How can I utilize the resources at my disposal to improve on those areas?
- When will I sit down to practice again?
- And most importantly…did I enjoy myself when I was practicing?
You might notice there were not any questions about another calligraphers work. Because that is not why we do calligraphy. We don’t do it so that we can win a competition of likes and follows. We do calligraphy for the pleasure of it and to communicate our message in a beautiful way. If you are aiming to be a top-shelf calligrapher so you can land the most calligraphy jobs in your area, you will of course need to measure your calligraphy to the standard you are trying to achieve, and you will need to take actionable steps to improve it. But spending your mental and emotional energy thinking about how it is “less than” another calligrapher’s work will not help you achieve that goal. It will only make it take longer to get there.
So, friend, at the end of the day, it is important to remove our feelings about whether our work is good enough and simply appreciate it for what it is. And appreciate that you have the tools to do it (which are quite hard for some people to acquire). And return to the enjoyment of making that stroke of the pen, feeling the sensation of the nib releasing ink as the tines glide gently across the paper.
Controlling the way we feel about calligraphy and about life is more of a choice and a mindset than anything. Let’s choose today to think positive thoughts about our experience and give ourselves grace when we fall short.
I hope the rest of your week is blessed, and I’ll see you on Friday!