Raise your hand if you’ve tried at least one new craft or hobby during the last year in quarantine? It’s not like it was a prerequisite for lockdown, but on a personal level – my creative edge was one of the few things that kept me sane during those weeks, then months, that we were barely leaving our homes. Thanks to a supportive family and parents that were always cultivating my curiosity – crafts have been a large part of my life for as long as I can remember. Whether it was making glycerin soaps and essential oil blends when I was in Elementary School, or having my birthday parties at the local Bead Shop – I’ve been able to dip, dabble and discover innovative ways to explore both the world, all the while embracing and enhancing my mental health.
What does creativity have to do with mental dexterity? Well, in my humble opinion – everything! The more creative we can be with the tools in front of us, the more inventive and original we become when discovering and dealing with the tools inside of us. As it turns out – the art and act of creativity is good for the mind, body and soul: enhancing our mental health, invigorating our immune system and boosting our mood by lowering our heart rates, reducing our anxiety and adding dopamine. I can’t think of a single person who hasn’t felt the pull and push of the new “normal” this past year, and it’s done a number on us internally with our mental health – and externally with our social circles and support systems.
Everyone has their preferred methods of communication, and most likely a few they avoid like the plague. I thrive on in person communication, and by in large it’s the one thing none of us have gotten enough of; I miss smiling eyes and eruptions of organic laughter, I miss hugging my friends and being lost in the middle of dance floors. I would be lying if I were to tell you I liked FaceTime; I don’t hate a lot of things – but FaceTime was up there, at least until quarantine. Same with Zoom “parties” – they’re just, a bit overwhelming for me. As a writer, I haven’t minded much that my conversations have been reduced to texting or chats, but at the end of the day I still was seeking a non-digital way to be present with people. Enter: letter writing.
I’ve never been much of a fan of my own handwriting, but realized I don’t see it that often these days thanks to computers, cell phones, and the like. Last Summer, I started playing around with different types of pens, and realized that even though I spend a good amount of time blogging I was really missing that pen-to-paper action. It started as a quest to draw something more than stick figures and evolved into an excursion to find the best doodling tools. Over time, my drawing elevated – but I realized my handwriting could use a bit more manicuring; I mean, when’s the last time you tried to write out the cursive alphabet?! That’s when I put two and two together into a proverbial four, and found a new resource for my writing in handwritten notes, letters and calligraphy. Letter writing itself feels like a lost art form, and it’s helped me connect the dots of my thoughts succinctly and sweetly. Not to mention, there’s nothing quite as sweet as a handwritten love note – especially when it comes from friends and family.
Are you looking to elevate your writing game to the next level, or simply looking for a new hobby? I’ve got you covered with my five must-haves for perfecting your penmanship.
Want to start stepping up your writing game but not sure where to start? I’ve amassed a small but mighty collection of books that have been beneficial in my lettering journey and here’s a few I couldn’t recommend more:
Best Guide to Hand Lettering
From the fantastic folks at Paper Peony Press comes my favorite tool of the trade for lettering hands down. This book for perfecting your writing style touches a variety of different styles of modern calligraphy, has great summary pages and provides a pretty little introduction to all things hand lettering.
Pro tip – make photo copies of pages, or lay another page on top to preserve the book as you go; that way you can re-use and retrace the lettering exercises over and over again until you’ve got things down pat!
I’ve tried my hands at a few lettering books; there are lots out there for every type of skill set. Being such a novice at thhis point in my life, I also found an affinity for Hand Lettering 101 ($18.99 on Amazon)
Best Hand Lettering Set for Beginners
Want to get your hand writing form down but not sure where to start? The fantastic folks at Prismacolor have you covered! They have tons of variety packs to choose from when it comes to learning to letter – but for all it’s worth, this one takes the cake for me.
Coming in hot with two graphite pencils of differing weights, one at a 2H the other at a 2B, for easy and smooth outlining, and a kneaded eraser – you’ll be able to get your shapes and sizing right before you lay it down with one of three illustration markers, or the double ended art pen with a chisel on one end and a fine tip to dive into your details. Plus, now you’re already set up for future sketching success!
Best Glass Pen Set
Growing up, I didn’t realize how spoiled I was when it came to creative habits. My mom and my step-mother both loved gardening, movement and music; my mom is where I get my writing habits from – but my step-mother is where I first discovered my love for the act of writing.
Where my writing looks more akin to my mother and fathers, and we all might as well have become doctors based on how illegible our writing can become – Jane’s writing may very well become it’s own font one day. Perfectly spaced and exquisite down to the last detail, her love of letter writing, cursive and calligraphy was nurtured onto me from a young age and I’m so happy to carry that tradition forward.
After toying around with hand lettering and calligraphy pens over the Summer, I quickly turned my attention to using glass pens – and let me tell you, writing with intention got real, and it got really colorful. Handcrafted and unique, each glass pen from ESSSHOP shines with technicolor shimmer throughout the body and is riddled with spiral grooves to extend your writing time.
It’s almost a meditative form of writing – you have to pay keen attention to your form, how much ink you swooped up and what thoughts you can get from brain, to finger, to ink, before you have to reload. Plus, the ink comes in a variety of colors – these from ESSHOP have a wonderful gold foiling effect – and are the perfect present for anyone looking to level up their writing, or evolve their style.
Best Quill Pen Set
If you love the idea of glass pens, you’ll be tickled pink by my next pick. After a few months getting into the groove of my glass pen, I thought it would be cute to throw it back a few centuries and see how I liked writing with a Quill. Oh, yes – feather pens!
They’re a fun gift, and if you’ve been able to master glass pens this is almost a no-brainer. Word to the wise, if you loved the length you could write with a dip of the glass pen you’ll find out very quickly that the quill tip doesn’t hold ink for very long. This set includes several different writing nibs, a bottle of ink and a wax set so you can seal your letters up just like the olden days!
Last, but not least – if you’re going to be working on your writing skills – you may as well have a lovely place to journal. I’ve fallen head over heels for this one from Siixu.
They come in four festive flavors; one for each season. I fell in love with all of them, but Summer might take the cake for the gradients of color interspersed throughout the journal. Great for a diary, a poetry or tarot journal, or simply to practice lettering – the journals from Siixu are elegant pieces of work all to themselves.
If you happen to prefer blank journals, Paperage has a wonderful assortment of hardcover journals in both lined and unlined varieties.
For more personal favorites, head over to my curated list on Amazon where I’ve compiled a few of tools, resources and fun accessories to make writing your current favorite creative outlet, and perfect the personal art of penmanship.
Am I missing one of your favorite writing tools? Have a fantastic book or style you’d like to add to the mix? Let me know in the comments below and happy lettering!