How to maintain healthy lifestyle while writing all day, every day?
Calligraphy sure is breathtaking, meditative & relaxing. It forces us to focus on breathing, movements & the beauty of writing. Sitting for hours & writing all day long is magical. It’s even more challenging to leave your chair when you are creating a beautiful calligraphic piece while enjoying the intricacy of writing but it’s not an active job. Soon you will likely to experience physical stress. If you are planning to take calligraphy as a profession or you want to keep writing for many years, keep on reading. I am sharing my experiences as a calligraphy professional & also helpful tips from some of the great calligraphers in the world who are working in this field over a decade.
Before going ahead, I had to tell you about this incident that happened with me very recently. Sitting for long hours & feeling pain in my body is quite regular & whenever that happens it usually reminds me to take a few breaks, to go out for a walk or to exercise. But 2021 was different. I was completely busy due to festive season & I couldn’t remember doing anything else but writing. I was so involved in new projects & assignments that I got stuck to my chair for hours & couldn’t even move inches. Slowly that started taking troll on my body. One fine day my knee started paining, I ignored it initially but soon I discovered that there is a swelling on my knee. I could not walk or even sit properly. I jumped out of my skin & rushed to the doctor that night. My Ortho suggested not to walk or climb stairs for few days & not to sit continuously for more than 40 mins. No squatting. No running. No sitting on floor with folded legs… That was a shock. I couldn’t believed what was happening to me.
My movements were slowed down & managing simple tasks that too with a toddler around me was very difficult. When we saw very less progress even after medication, we had to go through knee MRI. I don’t even want to remember that horrible experience. I was shivering & felt like this is an END to my writing life. I broke down. These past few months were terrified. I was unable to do simple things. My work speed slowed down tremendously. I was sad, upset & extremely frustrated. I felt like becoming a very old person. I realised that I had ignored my health for a long time & now I had to do something about it or else I won’t be able to write continuously in the future. I was so afraid to admit the fact that I am unable to walk in my thirties. During my classes, I always talk about posture, sitting arrangements & how not to write but I myself ignored my health completely due to workload. That was awful !
This incident was a wakeup call for me. I decided to give complete rest to myself & to recover from it as soon as possible. By God’s grace & with the help of my doctors I am back to writing. Not completely recovered yet but there is a huge improvement. I have made some lifestyle changes & sharing them below so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I did.
The first thing I did was to accept that this is happening to me at a very young age & I am responsible for it. So I had to change the newly adapted seating position, the way I write, the way I sit, the way I do my work. From there onwards the journey from sitting at one place to moving around began. Now I start my day with exercise & end it with exercise. Just a few simple warm up exercises for my joints such as leg crosses, arm circles, finger rotating to increase the mobility & strength.
I do take more breaks while writing. I hate this one as I totally enjoy sitting for hours & completing a particular piece in one go. But now I have told my mind to work smartly & to take more breaks especially if the work does not need a continuous flow. For e.g. Wedding envelopes, place cards, name tags, engraving where you are going to write names on different surfaces or different piece every time, unlike writing a letter or a long poem which needs a continuous flow of writing since beginning. Now, I take breaks after drawing lines, after making drafts, after writing & after packaging. Earlier I used to draw, sketch, write, erase, spell check & pack my orders with minimum breaks or no breaks at all.
I had learned to say NO to crazy deadlines & unnecessary urgency of the work. Especially when client insists to work with me & ready to pay more for it. Sure, that’s amazing but sooner or later your body will start responding to strict deadlines. Calligraphy is a slow art, it takes time & you can always ask for more time politely. Having extra time in hand always helps. You can plan better, write more calmly & give best results.
Using more flexible nibs for writing is a game changer. The biggest mistake that I did initially was to use Nikko G for almost 2 years for all my commercial work, haha !! My hands have already suffered a lot but save yourself from it. Use more flexible nibs especially for bulk orders or to write on hundreds of cards.
& last but not the least, taking weekly off. Giving complete rest to my hands & enjoying the day without writing. This is completely new habit for me but I am trying my best to follow this routine. Of course drinking plenty of water, having meals on time & getting enough sleep is a must for healthy lifestyle. You need to do it if you want to lead a happy, healthy & fit lifestyle.
I am doing calligraphy professionally since just 5 years but there are many amazing calligraphers who are working in this field for more than 20 years. That got me thinking about how do calligraphers survive in this field for decades? This article is just not complete without understanding their routine & secret to healthy lifestyle. Let’s see how they maintain their health & yet enjoy doing what they do.
(Suzanne Cunningham is a professional calligrapher with over 28 years of experience. She has inspired many calligraphy enthusiasts with her elegant writing & fabulous flourishes. You can find her on Instagram @suzcunningham )
" I have a few ways I maintain a healthy lifestyle while writing all day. I try to start my day each morning by going to the gym and exercising. Mornings work better for me because once I get busy with work, it’s hard to stop and go at that point.
I also try to move around at least once an hour. That could be anything from doing a load of laundry to running a quick errand. I feel like it’s very important to get up out of your chair, move around, and get your blood flowing for a few minutes.
My diet is very healthy. I eat lots of lean meats, vegetables, healthy carbs, and try to drink lots of water. I feel like this allows me to feel my best overall and helps me with a sedentary job."
(Heather Held is a Canadian freelance lettering artist. She has studied extensively with Master Penman Michael Sull and Master Penman Brian Walker. She conducts workshops in Offhand Flourishing, Decorative Lettering and Ornamental Penmanship world-wide. You can find her on Instagram @heathervictoria1 )