Branching Out and Taking a Risk

Brush Lettering

I’ve been a lettering junkie for years. In every stack of notes from my college years, every notebook, every grocery list, pretty much anytime I have to write something, I also have names and words written in loopy handwriting in the margins.

Up until a few years ago, I had no idea that people made money from their handwriting. I didn’t know that was a thing. I didn’t realize that people who didn’t have pretty handwriting wanted to have pretty handwriting. I just thought they shrugged their shoulders and moved along to other hobbies.

Not long ago, I received a Facebook invitation to join a one-time, brush lettering class. For $35, we would meet at a friend’s house, learn from a brush lettering instructor, and get to keep the practice sheets and a brush pen. Plus, you know, snacks.

At first, I thought, “Why would I pay $35 to do something I already do?” I have a hand lettering Etsy shop after all. And I write things using fake calligraphy all the time. And people pay me money for it.

But then, I thought, “Well, I am still new to my town. This would be a fun night with new girlfriends, and what the hey, I might learn something.”

And you know what - I did.

I follow lettering artists on Instagram. I watch lettering videos all the time. I purchased brush pens and fancy paper to practice my brush lettering techniques at home. My efforts at home were terrible.

You can’t fake good handwriting with brush pens. I could not get the technique at all. And honestly, I had kind of given up trying to make things better. I just figured that what I currently know how to do with handwriting could be enough.

When I went to the class and watched a teacher use a marker on actual paper, I saw it. I saw what I had been missing. I heard the squeaking of the ink sliding down the page from the pressure she exerted on the brush tip to make the thick lines of script. I saw her pen release the pressure for the upstroke lines. I watched her bounce her letters to keep the script fun and whimsical.

In turn, the instructor watched me create juvenile letter Cs, (yes, basic letter C, like the easiest letter), and she corrected my grip and pen angle. She gave me tips and encouragement. And I found love for lettering practice again.

Writing Jobs

Recently, I applied for a managing editor job that I had no intention of ever getting. I knew it was a long shot, and I wasn’t even sure if I would be remotely qualified compared to the other applicants. I applied anyway.

I made the first cut of applicants. I had to complete three tasks to see if I might be a good fit for the position. This process was actually super fun, and while I didn’t get the job, I made a new contact with the person who runs the website.

In fact, this brand owner and I live very close to each other. Because she’s exceptionally cool, she offered to get coffee and talk. We met and talked for about two hours. She offered encouragement and advice when I asked, but mostly, we just chatted about our lives and what we were reading and writing, how our kids were doing, and the weirdness of the political climate affecting everything - even for people who aren’t usually political.

Risk Requires Cost

I’m learning more and more about how to take care of myself, and part of doing that is learning to take chances and to stretch myself. By taking an evening to attend a class, I found myself able to enjoy brush lettering for the first time instead of feeling frustrated. By applying for a job despite my insecurities about my qualifications, I made a connection with someone a little further down the road professionally.

Taking a risk - even something small like a one-time class or a coffee date - required some humility on my part. I had to release the idea of my professionalism, my own expertise at my current knowledge. And by doing that, I gained much more than the risk cost me.

Risk requires a cost, but it adds value. That’s part of learning, and it’s addicting.

Kelly Wiggains