[I’ve Got 5 On It] Wonderful Ways to Elevate your Writing Game

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

A Beginner’s Guide to Lettering and Modern Calligraphy – $6.99

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!

Honorable Mentions:

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

Prismacolor Hand Lettering Set – $12.60 on Amazon

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

ESSHOP Glass Pen Set – $16.99 On Amazon

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

NC Quill Pen Ink Set – $27.99

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!


Favorite Journal

Siixu Colorful Blank Hardcover Notebook, Large – $12.99

Siixu Colorful Journal in Summer

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!

[Write On] Adventures in Literature: My 2015 Reading Challenge

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.
[Mark Twain]

First things first, let me just drop this knowledge on you – Reading is Sexy; and don’t let a person tell you anything differently!  I don’t mean reading articles from HuffPo, Lost at E Minor, Mother Jones or Science Daily on your smart phone or tablet. I’m talking tangible, hold’em in your hand and smell the page; wafting in wanderlust and adventure, syllable after syllable; ending up in a world you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams while you’ve stayed static, stuck on the couch with your head in the clouds. When I was younger, my appetite for literature was almost insufferable for my family – every meal, every car ride, every turn – there I was, ears billowing out hushed musical tones while my mind wandered feverishly through the chapters. 

As I grew older, I realized that my penchant for reading was only matched by my aptitude for math.  Over the course of several family reunions in Washington I was taught how to use long division and counted by powers of two to fall asleep. Nature and nurture seemed to have a field day when it came to determining my true passion in life – on one hand, I could eat, sleep and breathe data, numbers and patterns – there’s something so simple, so logical, so straightforward about the output of data. In a similar but opposite context, I love extrapolating on the English Language, enamoring my work with poetic justice and jubilant prose while challenging the definition of sentence structure and simile.  And let’s not forget, the joys of reading – of traveling infinitely inwards, shooting through the future and somersaulting through the past while staying firmly, yet delicately, in place.

It only makes sense through both nature and nurture.  As the granddaughter of one of the creators of the ENIAC and great granddaughter of one of the only female writer of the Harlem Renaissance, it makes all too much sense that I’d find a unique penchant for both and be able to put it to work. But that’s not to say that I don’t find myself getting writer’s block every now and again. In my last few years as music journalist for The DJ List, I’ve had the wonderfully unique opportunity to ask music professionals how they get over an uncreative slump –  they all tell me that fully immersing themselves in art has always worked the trick – and by in large, I absolutely agree. Both literature and music have a therapeutic, cathartic way of affecting my daily outlook, and my daily output.   Fully immersing myself in another persons passionate creative endeavor more than fuels my fire to foster new ideas, or simply push through and finish what I’ve started.  As far as my writing, personal, music blogging, gonzo journalism and the like are concerned – reading is by far the best way to expand my horizons on what I’m capable of, and the literature that already exists within the world.  Through proper perusal of passionate creations, I see ways that I can make my own more harmonic, melodic, whimsical and descriptive.

Last year, my best friend challenged me to find my Top Ten Works of Literary NonFiction and that was a wonderful blast from the past but truth be told, my reading has waned in the last decade. Since College has ended, I’ve been on a perpetual mission to educate myself – in any way possible, and books have done just that for me. To out myself now – Book Clubs don’t do much for me, except potentially give me a room of disappointed faces when I announce that I’ve read three different books that definitely were not assigned while I’ve definitely avoided what we were all told to read. I get reading inspiration from across the board and I have to admit that for the last few years, with the influx of all sorts of social media, my reading offline had fallen by the wayside – but I’ve taken a bold stand to that and say no more.

Amazon has a wonderful book buy-back (well, technically – it’s an “anything” buy-back program, but whatever) where you can get books for as little as 1¢ (plus Shipping, so 5 bucks total – which is still awesome!) that I’ve been (ab)using since college.  Like rare wildflowers, there’ve been an influx of lending libraries popping up around Los Angeles, as well as Corvallis where my family lives – and there’s a corner of my heart that’s infinitely happier for that. Beautiful bookstores, though few and far between, are havens of literature and apparently, actual Libraries still exist – and now you can rent CDs, DVDs, Blu Rays, Video Games and so much more than just books! On the flip side, if you’re looking to catalog your library or expand your literary horizons – I’m a huge fan of GoodReads, it’s basically the Facebook of reading; you can find your friends, explore authors and use your cell phone to barcode scan your bookshelves.  It’s a book nerds dream – and if you go on it, you should definitely add me!

For 2015, I’ve decided to inspire my creative side with a reading challenge and figured 25 books over the course of the year was doable.  Sure, I have to basically billow through a book biweekly – but with all the absent minded things I tend to do around my house, not to mention the bouts of latent lackadaisical laziness and semi-permanent procrastination due to writer’s block, and I could easily reach my goal; if not surpass it!  We’re just past

The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture, Matt RidleyThe Agile Gene: How Nature Turns on Nurture

In my personal opinion, science is one of the most beautiful subjects to write about – taking a process, breaking it down with language and reinforcing connection through poetic prose, symbolic symbolism and delicate diction.  In a sea of science authors, Matt Ridley stands out with other greats of our generation like Richard Dawkins, Oliver Sacks, Simon Singh and Brian Greene.  A personal fangirl of his writing since I was graduating High School in 2003, as a budding young biochemist at one point in my life I was enamored by books like Genome, The Red Queen Theory and The Origins of Virtue.  ‘The Agile Gene: How Nature Turns On Nurture’ is a wonderful encounter with ideals we’ve been familiar with grade school – except instead of pitting them against each other, Matt Ridley makes an excellent argument for how nature and nurture work in tandem to produce the genetic world in which we thrive.

The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness

The Joyous Cosmology, Alan Watts

I’ve been recommended various Alan Watts books over the years, but it took until the past month to finally get through one.  Taking into account how in love I was with Huxley‘s Doors of Perception and Pinchbeck‘s Breaking Open The Head, The Joyous Cosmology was a no-brainer first choice.

A lyrically written journey into the mind, Alan Watts impeccably conveys his journey into human consciousness, the ego and the psyche. A must read for anyone intent on exploring the bounds of the mind. Watts does poetic justice to moments where words typically won’t suffice, on a journey through the internal, mental and emotional manifestdestiny of the human race in the 21st century. And speaking of Watts and Huxley, while doing some research I found a wonderful interview from 1968 of Alan Watts and Laura Huxley, Aldous‘ late wife.

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras: With Light, Color, Sound, Crystals, and Aromatherapy

Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras Joy Gardner

After experiencing a menagerie of types of healing and transformational moments at festivals along the West Coast, from Lightning in a Bottle to Shambhala Music Festival, I’ve been eager to learn some myself. During my first LIB, I watched as festies relaxed under billowing trees while a plethora of instruments were tuned around them and this past year, I watched as a sonic soundbath featuring tuning forks alleviated stress and relaxed my entire campsite.  In Canada, I had my chakras read and realigned by a happy camper, explaining beforehand that last year he set a personal record by reading the palms of 50 people – last year, he wanted to break 100.

It’s purported through ancient scripture that the universe is held together with vibration and sound, and the more I read into vibrational healing the more I truly understand what this means.

The Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science

The Beginner’s Guide to Constructing the Universe, Michael Schenider 

This is my latest, and it’s a goodie. Mathematics is the language of the universe, and this wonderfully engaging and hands on approach from Michael Schenider is one of the best explanations of how math plays into the world as we currently know it.  From the formation of gems and minerals to hexagonal shape of beehives and formation of historic sculptures and art from sacred geometry, this is a must read for math people, and non-math people, alike.  Every chapter contains a section on how to construct various shapes like the platonic solids, promoting a beautiful discussion while delving into the history of our current numeric system.

My bookshelf is literally toppling over with reads, which makes me incredibly indecisive on what to pick up next.  I’ve been reading The Alchemist outloud with Danny and it’s brings a whole new element to the read, and on my own I’ve been itching to get through some Alan Watts books, as well as an Alex Grey book on The Mission of Art. What are your recommendations for my next read? What’s on your bookshelf that you just can’t wait to dive in to? Let me know in the comments below!