Useful Hand Lettering: Quit This in a Creative Slump

When you’re in a creative slump and practicing hand lettering feels completely out of reach, you don’t need a list of more things to do. If you don’t feel like lettering, no amount of ideas is going to give you motivation. Instead, here’s a list of 10 things to quit to get back to a useful hand lettering practice that you are actually excited about.

10 Things To Quit in a Hand Lettering Slump

Hand Lettering Practice: 10 Things To Quit

I received this email from a lovely subscriber who said, “I would love to see a video about some ways that you have tried to get back into lettering practice after a hiatus / slump.” Have you felt that? Sometimes you are really excited about your hand lettering practice, and then other times, you just don’t feel motivated to letter. So in response to this, here are 10 things to quit in your lettering.

First, what is a useful hand lettering practice? It’s when you have meaningful hand lettering moments. The things you practice are useful to you and your lettering. Your hand lettering benefits you and feels good. And we can get to this useful hand lettering practice even as a beginner.

1. Quit creating just for social media

Are you trying to get your lettering just right so you can post it on instagram? I used to spend my hand lettering practice time creating something just for instagram and in the end realized, that I didn’t have a lot of finished art to show for my time.

Think about creativity as a toolbox. In the toolbox you have all kinds of tools to help you get creative. Instagram is just one of those tools. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy dose of instagram. But if every time you go on instagram you feel bad about yourself or it’s not a happy place to be, you don’t have to be there just because it’s the thing to do. It’s still there in the tool box when you’re ready for it. Why not do something you love instead of trying to use a tool that’s not working?

On instagram we may be seeing perfect lettering but we don’t see the years of practice and hours of struggle to get that one perfect lettering piece. The journey is not all instagram worthy. I’m currently not posting on instagram and that was really difficult because my value was tied to my numbers and I’d been doing it for so long. I had to let it all go to come back to my creativity and live my life in a way that feels good to me. I talked about it in my video I Quit The Instagram Game. You just have to listen to what you need because it’s a really personal choice. If it’s hurting your creativity, maybe right now is not the time to be there.

Prioritize life over social media

2. Quit comparisons in your hand lettering practice

Are you in a creative slump because you don’t think you’re good enough? Or you think what’s even the point because I’ll never be as good as so-and-so. Quitting comparisons is easier said than done and it takes a lot of practice and reminders. But here’s one thing i’ve learned to be true over and over: there will always be someone better than you, AND there will always be someone worse than you. So comparisons to others can’t determine how you feel about your creativity. Instead of focusing on how good or bad your lettering is, maybe focus on the way it makes you feel to create. If it is your creative outlet that helps you get through your crazy life, then it doesn’t matter what it looks like. Create anyway because you need it. The way you create right now is exactly where you need to be.

3. Quit avoiding your hand lettering just because you don’t know what to letter

I know that thinking of what to letter can be a huge barrier when you’re trying to get back into lettering. It takes time to choose and if you only have 10 minutes to letter, that whole time could be spent looking up quotes. One easy way around this is to join a lettering challenge. There are lots of lettering challenges on Instagram. If you are choosing not to be on instagram right now, I also have several past challenges for free in my Lettering Library.

Another thing that can help is to give yourself limitations like only lettering with one pen for a month. I’ve tried this and it actually does help. When I used one kind of pen in the same journal for 30 days I didn’t have to use my energy or time to think about what pens to use. I knew everyday what I would letter with. I like to listen to music and read books. I like to letter songs I’m loving or quotes I like from my current book. So quit avoiding your lettering just because you don’t know what to letter. I also have a blog post with 10 Hand Lettering Ideas if you are feeling motivated right now and you just need help with ideas and inspiration.

rainbow hand lettering journal page bright mood board

4. Quit striving for perfection in your hand lettering

Quit trying to make really really good lettering and art. Just make art. Make bad art if that helps you to get past the pressure. Make as much as you can and don’t worry about it being good. I like the quote “where focus goes, energy flows.” The more you create, the more you want to create. You don’t get good at lettering by creating perfect lettering. You get good by making a lot of lettering. And a lot of that lettering may be really bad. Show up for your creativity over and over again. You don’t have to be the best at something to enjoy it.

One practical way to get over the hurdle of perfectionism is to start a hand lettering journal. Use it like a sketchbook where the only goal is to fill it with your creativity, not to make perfect lettering. Another way to get over perfectionism is to learn something totally new. Put yourself back into the absolute beginner’s shoes. Take a new class on Skillshare or find a tutorial on Youtube. Maybe you do a lot with brush pens so try watercolor. When you’re a beginner, there’s no pressure to be at the top level. You’re not going to be good at something when you first start. And feeling that magic of being a beginner can remind you to just create for the fun of creating, not to be perfect.

hand lettering quote I'm not perfect

5. Quit forcing a useful Hand Lettering practice

Quit forcing yourself to practice what you think you should or what someone tells you to. If you enjoy tracing the basic strokes over and over, you should do that. And if you want to learn a very specific font, tracing it can be great practice. I have some hand lettering worksheets that can be really helpful for beginners. But if tracing worksheets doesn’t sound fun, you don’t have to practice that way. Let go of that pressure. You don’t have to practice anything that you don’t want to. Your lettering is for you first.

There was a time when I thought it was so important to practice at least 10 minutes a day no matter what. And I still do believe you learn by doing it little by little. 10 minutes here and there really adds up. But there are times when you need something else besides actual lettering practice. Like sleep or going for a walk.

As I’ve stopped forcing myself to practice, I’ve realized that sometimes on a walk I’ll see something that inspires an idea. And that is definitely part of a useful hand lettering practice even if you’re not actively sitting at your desk with your pens. Living your life can actually inspire you in your lettering so don’t force yourself to practice. Use your time to practice something that you’re actually excited about, not what you think you should practice. And enjoy living your life and use that as inspiration.

hand lettering basic strokes

6. Quit hoarding brush pens

Quit hoarding pens that you don’t use or don’t like. Do you ever get overwhelmed by the amount of pens you have and how to keep them all organized? Does it sometimes feel impossible to be able to letter with all of the pens you have? If you’re like me, you’ve accumulated quite the collection over the years. But here’s the thing, there are way too many pens out there to be using ones that don’t make you really happy.

You’ve maybe seen some of my decluttering videos over the years and the truth is, I had so many pens that realistically I couldn’t use all of them unless maybe I had endless time and never needed to eat and sleep. As I’ve started to let go of some, I’ll say “use it up or give it a new life.” The pens are happier to be used (I like to think so anyway) and I still have so many pens that honestly I don’t even remember which ones I decluttered.

So what about the pens that are really popular on instagram and you think you should like them but you just don’t. You don’t have to like all the pens. In fact, you won’t like all of them. Get curious about which ones feel good with your style. It’s ok to try new pens. I get really excited to try new pens. But we don’t need our drawers overflowing with pens to make good art. When we declutter the things that we aren’t using anymore, we make room for something new. We have more space to feel creative and start fresh. This is especially helpful in times of burnout when we really need a fresh start.

hand lettering brush pens

7. Quit holding your brush pen wrong

Quit holding your brush pen wrong. I’m not talking about how your fingers are wrapped around your pen. That doesn’t matter as long as it feels comfortable to you. I’m talking about the pen in relation to the paper and your letters. When you are holding your pen correctly, the pen is doing most of the work and you are just guiding it. This is very helpful to have a useful hand lettering practice.

You want about a 45 degree angle from your pen to the paper so you can get the full thickness of the brush stroke. And the other thing is that your pen should be perpendicular to your downstroke. So choose the angle of your downstroke and make your pen perpendicular. That means the line of your pen would cross over the downstroke like a “t” as opposed to a different angle because this will mess up your thick to thin transition. If you want to learn more, you might like my blog post that explains more: How to Hold a Brush Pen for Hand Lettering.

How to hold a brush pen for hand lettering. These lettering basics can help you improve your lettering quickly simply by changing how you hold your brush pen. | Ensign Insights

8. Quit trying to hand letter like everyone else

Quit trying to hand letter just like everyone else. When you first start lettering, it is good to learn from one person as you’re developing the basic skills and figuring out how to use a brush pen. After that, you can get inspired from different people and take bits and pieces of what you like to make it your own. There is power in doing something because you like it even when you don’t know if others will like it.

When I started, there was one person that I thought was the perfect hand letterer and I wanted nothing more than to be exactly like her. I learned a lot by trying to letter like her and it did help me improve. But things got so much better when I was able to appreciate her style because it’s beautiful, and I could start to learn from multiple people without feeling the need to be just like them. If you are doing a certain calligraphy font, then you will learn that exact font, but when it comes to hand lettering, you get to make it your own. It doesn’t need to look like anyone else.

hand lettering quote have courage to love yourself

9. Quit hand lettering

Quit lettering. Yeah, I said that. Hear me out. One of the things that can lead to burnout or a creative slump is a big life change. Having a baby, moving, getting a new job, family changes, etc. These all take a lot of time and energy so we have less time and energy to devote to sitting down and formally creating. During certain life changes, having a useful hand lettering practice can feel like stability so you should keep doing that. And during other changes, it might feel like an extra chore we have to check off the list. If it’s not a useful to your life right now, let it go for a little bit. It will be there when you’re ready. Realize that you are creating in literally every aspect of your life.

Using your creative muscles in other areas of your life like cooking, and activities with your kids, the way you organize your home, or the way you talk with people, all improves your creativity in your hand lettering. Basically what I’m saying is that living your life is an important aspect of a useful hand lettering practice. So even if you aren’t spending time practicing the technical skills, it is possible you are still getting better at lettering because your everyday life might be inspiring you with ideas for when you’re ready to get back into it. You can always practice creativity in your life.

My toddler one day ripped up the Brown Bear, Brown Bear book instead of napping. I was very frustrated, but then I was able to create some really amazing collages with the pages as you see in the following picture. I took something frustrating in my life and got creative.

10. Quit not knowing the 3 basic rules of hand lettering

Quit not knowing the three basic rules. When you know these basic rules, your lettering will improve quickly even as a beginner. And then you can start breaking these rules intentionally. Just like Picasso said, “Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.” The three basic rules are angle, space, and size. Your angle should be the same throughout your word. The spacing should be the same. And the size of your letters should be the same. When you start breaking them you can do things like bounce lettering as you are changing up the size. If you’ve never heard of this, you might like my blog post 3 Basic Rules of Hand Lettering for Beginners.

3 Basic Rules of Hand Lettering. Improve your lettering skills by following these simple techniques. | Ensign Insights

Bonus: If you made it all the way to the end, I wanted to add a little bonus tip. Look back at your lettering often to see how far you’ve come. In my video 10 Things to Quit in Your Hand Lettering, I used old lettering videos that I’ve made in the past. It is good to see how far I’ve come over the years. Also, as I look at my old lettering, there are some things that I remember really enjoying and I’m excited to get into again as I come out of my own burnout and get back into a hand lettering practice. Looking at your previous lettering might spark some new ideas and inspiration.

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