Earlier this month, I picked up a book called The Happiness Project to read on a long trip. The Happiness Project is basically about author Gretchen Rubin’s quest to increase her happiness through changes that she makes in the course of a year. It was a fun and inspirational self-improvement book, and one that resonated with me because it inadvertently provided insight into why people enjoy learning calligraphy! It also gave me enlightenment as to why some learners end up being more successful than others.
Happiness + Learning Calligraphy
I should begin by saying that learning calligraphy isn’t for everyone. Just like any activity, there will be some people who really enjoy it, and some who really don’t. That said, for those with an interest in calligraphy, learning how to do it can be a source of joy! Here’s why:
In The Happiness Project, Rubin states: “… Challenge and novelty are key elements to happiness. The brain is stimulated by surprise, and successfully dealing with an unexpected situation gives a powerful sense of satisfaction.” In short, learning new things keeps us feeling fulfilled.
The key to happily learning calligraphy it to celebrate the small successes along the way. That’s why I always have calligraphy beginners start with faux calligraphy — it provides instant results! As you progress to the dip pen, you’ll run into various roadblocks, and that’s a good thing. Figuring out the solution to the problems that you’re having is part of the challenge and the satisfaction. For example, when I first started learning calligraphy, I had crummy supplies like regular printer paper and nibs that were too flexible for my level. I experienced a lot of ink bleeding and nibs catching on paper! Once I got suitable supplies, a lot of the issues that I was having disappeared.
Calligraphy will dole out challenges no matter what level you’re at — that’s a given. Regardless of how skilled or unskilled you are with a dip pen, there will always be a problem to address. Remember that the challenge, no matter how frustrating it may be at the time, is part of the appeal.
As you successfully navigate issues, your satisfaction with what you create will increase, which contributes to happiness!
Thoughtfulness and Calligraphy
The Happiness Project focuses on thoughtfulness as a recurring theme. Humans are inherently social creatures, and it makes us feel good to connect with other people. Conveniently, calligraphy is the perfect way to show someone — whether they’re near or far — that you’re thinking about them.
- Send a mail art envelope
- Send a greeting card featuring calligraphy
- Make quote art to give as a gift
- Create calligraphy-based artwork to give as a gift
Calligraphy offers a beautiful, cost-effective way to show someone that you care. Making something for someone else not only contributes to your happiness, but also to theirs!
Enthusiasm: the Secret to Success
Another statement that Rubin made also resonated with me: “Enthusiasm is more important to mastery than innate ability, it turns out, because the single most important element in developing an expertise is your willingness to practice.”
If someone is good at something, we often say that the person is talented or has a gift. In reality, the secret to success in anything is actually liking it. Without enthusiasm for calligraphy, it’s difficult to practice it. So, before you get started, you might think about why you want to learn. What motivations can you use to propel yourself forward if you encounter frustrating obstacles? The stronger your motivation and enthusiasm, the more likely you are to produce work that makes you happy.
Of course, balance is the real key to happiness in life. The goal of this post isn’t to suggest that calligraphy and calligraphy alone is a pathway to joy — but it can certainly help a creative person to feel fulfilled! If you’re on the fence about learning, give it a go. Try working through the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course, and be patient with yourself as you progress! Remember: if calligraphy didn’t present a challenge, it wouldn’t be fun.
Self-improvement books are a guilty pleasure of mine, so I enjoyed The Happiness Project and the insight it gave me into why people (myself included) are interested in the art of calligraphy. Thanks very much for reading, and have a fantastic rest of the week! We’ll reconvene on Friday with a project tutorial. 🙂