The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard
Hello, I'm Doris. I’m a letterer and calligrapher, and I like pens.
I was born and raised in a small town in Northern Germany. I remember loving pens and getting good marks for handwriting as a kid, but my art grades weren’t great, so I never thought of myself as creative. Eventually, my love for languages took over, and I did an apprenticeship to be a Foreign Language Secretary. I then moved to Scotland to study Human Resource Management and Spanish. I lived and worked in London and Barcelona, where I met a nice young man. His work took us to the Canary Islands, Mexico, Dallas, and New York.
Basically, in my 20s, I was a student and a secretary, in my 30s I was a Myers-Briggs and cross-cultural trainer, and now in my 40s, I write and draw. This latest career pivot really came about because I had a difficult time adjusting to life in Manhattan. I went on a six-month sabbatical and took up a new hobby, hand lettering. Hours flew by, and I loved just sitting and doodling so much that I decided to make it my business.
Today, I’d like to encourage you to #justpickupapen.
First of all, writing with your hand is amazing for your brain.
Looking at your electronic devices all day? Not so much.
One study this year at UT Austin showed that in a cognitive capacity exercise, participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and even those with their phones in their pockets or nearby bags. In other words, it takes mental energy to ignore your phone once it’s there.
If you’re brave, download an app called “Moment”. It’ll keep track of how many times a day you pick up your phone and how much time you spend in each app.
I’m not saying throw your phone away, but if you have it on your nightstand and it’s the first and last thing you see every day, try picking up a pen and doing some handwriting instead. This might be a gratitude journal, the to do list for the next day, or setting an intention - whatever you like. But do it on paper.
Several studies also show that students who take class notes in long form are better able to recall ideas and concepts than students who transcribed the class verbatim on their laptops.
If you’re like me and have a hard time with traditional meditation, studies show that handwriting and doodling have the same effect on the brain.
And if better memory and calming your monkey brain aren’t enough, writing down your thoughts and feelings has also shown to help people with PTSD. It lowers blood pressure and improves lung and liver functions, so it’s actually good for your body, too.
But wait, there’s more: pens and handwriting can also make your everyday more beautiful.
If you don’t want to journal for the mental health benefits, try scrapbooking or keeping an art journal.
When was the last time you had something other than ads or bills in your mailbox? In today's digital environment of emails and text messages, sending handwritten notes and invitations really shows you care, and helps you stand out from the crowd. I love receiving cards and letters, and I love sending that joy to others, especially in between birthdays and Christmas and for no reason other than saying hello.
Writing beautifully with your hand is a craft you can learn.
Handwriting has been around for about 6,000 years. Arguably the first writing utensil was the hand ax used to imitate animal scratches, but we have come a long way since then. Our tools have become more sophisticated, and so have the styles, or “hands” that go with it.
For example, this is a poem I wrote in 2015.
Two years ago, I only knew I wanted to make it look nice and cursive, and I had a pen that said “calligraphy” on it. What I didn’t know was that I was using a broad nib that’s really for Italic or blackletter styles. But I was trying to do a Copperplate cursive, which needs to be done with a pointed pen. Now that I know the difference, here’s how I wrote the poem in 2017.
In other words, your writing and calligraphy will look a lot better when you know how to use specific tools and follow the specific rules. #practicemakesprogress
If you want to learn this kind of cursive, or know someone who does, I have an introduction to Copperplate class out on Skillshare, and you can sign up here.
Now you know your ABCs: handwriting is amazing for your brain, it’s beautiful, and it’s a craft, so if you don’t like what yours looks like you can totally go out and learn how to do it better.
I want to leave you with this - do I feel like a fish out of water and a little crazy to start a creative business in my 40s? Only all day, every day. I have a corporate background, I don’t have a degree in design, and my skills really aren’t where I want them to be yet. But I am growing my portfolio, I have cards on Tendr.com that people are using, I’m designing for designer friends’ clients, I’m getting great feedback from calligraphy students, and every day I look forward to getting into my office and seeing what comes out of my pen this time.
So even if handwriting is not your thing and you don’t want to take my Skillshare class, I want to encourage you to see if there isn’t something out in the real world that might help you put your phone in another room at least some of the time. You’re not too old, so what if you don’t have a degree, so what if you suck at first, just follow your curiosity and enjoy.