I’m Still Not a Calligrapher, But I Can Write

Today was the second day of the class in Scottsdale taught by Laurie Doctor.  (Read about the first day.) When you work in her class, time drops away. You go to places you’ve never been before, and you go with curiosity, not fear.

I’m not a calligrapher. I actually don’t want to be, simply because I don’t have the give of endless patience and the sharp, demanding precision that the art demands.  Having been born with the gift of words instead of letters, I’ve always itched for something more. I thought that was calligraphy, but after three classes, I knew I didn’t have the gift. My teachers knew it, too. One of them told me over and over that calligraphy takes more practice than I had time left in my life. While I was saddened, I knew the instructor was right.

Blind contour writing, written upside down

Blind contour writing, written upside down

The class this weekend was the approach I was hoping for. It was about seeing, about careful watching, about that journey to the interior we take, where the self skids, straightens out and moves deeper into the journey.

The class allowed for curiosity and experimentation. My favorite kind of class. We did many exercises, but two were especially useful and creative for my kind of art, and both of them enormously satisfying.

In one, we received an example of incredible calligraphy. We were to look at it carefully, note the turns and grace. To make this easier, the example was in another language, and we looked at it upside down. We then copied phrases from it without looking at the paper we were working on (blind contour writing.) All we did was look at the writing. It sharpens observation and lets you let go of judgment.

The second exercise was to use what we learned from this alphabet and write down an English poem. But this time we wrote it in white ink on black paper. The contrast made a visual imprint, rather than a line of calligraphy. I could let go of the fact that I’m not a calligrapher and deal with beautiful language in an experimental style of writing. The result was not calligraphy, but a wonderful flow of language in a

Writing fragment, Antonio Machado poem

Writing fragment, Antonio Machado poem

powerful expression of positive and negative space.

I no longer have to be a calligrapher, because I can make my words take on meaning in many ways–through color, weight, height and strength.

It was a journey that allowed for not knowing and knowing, for writing and feeling, for giving the words a form and shape that gives them meaning and strength. It is a powerful art that leads through many open doors.

–Quinn McDonald is the owner of QuinnCreative. She is a writer and creativity coach. She teaches workshops in business communication and ideaglyphs–journal writing using personal symbols, dreams, and the power of the imagination.