Practice makes perfect

Everyone knows that saying – practice makes perfect.
I think there’s a second part missing to that saying, and that’s: you’ll have to keep on practicing to stay perfect.
Regular practice is vital for keeping and continually improving your skills. The pathways in your brain can only strengthen if you’ll give them more of the same. For calligraphic practice, this means:

  • Rhythm and movement – this is called muscle memory
  • concentration and mindfulness
  • planning and deciding what moves you’re about to make
  • movements like dipping the nib, the amount of pressure you apply on it, wiping off the nib

Setting up your workspace

A properly arranged workspace makes practice more fun and leads to better results.
The following aspects are important:

  • good light, properly placed so that it doesn’t cast a shadow on what you’re writing
  • a lot of space around you to move your arms around – calligraphy is written with arm, not mere hand movement
  • well-arranged materials: ink container on the same side as your writing hand, a bowl of water and a cloth nearby, placing your template in front of you so that you don’t have to bend when you look at it
  • sit straight, but relaxed, breathe slowly
  • the writing surface can be slanted or straight, whatever feels better for your hand
  • practice at a time where you don’t get interrupted by others, or the telephone
  • the right hour is one in which you’re relaxed, awake and not interrupted. This depends of course on your schedule.
  • practice in the same place every time – if your materials are already waiting for you, you’ll just have to sit down and start

How long should practice take?

For beginners I recommend at least 30 to 45 minutes, after an acclimatization phase you can extend your sessions. Of course you should stop when your hand starts to hurt.

How often should you practice?

The more often, the better. Preferably every day, at least three times a week for beginners, if you’re having fun of course more often.
The best strategy is to plan in a fixed time for practice. This way your family knows you’re “not available”, and it’s a commitment to yourself you’re more likely to keep – it makes it easier to start. (People who think they already have enough commitments and feel stressed out should probably think about which of these commitments are important. Make time for what’s important.)

Practicing the right way – deliberate practice

This is the most important point, maybe not in the beginning, but with growing experience it’ll get more important:
The quality of practice is as important as the quantity. Normal practice is good, but deliberate practice is better. If you keep on practicing your weak points or specific techniques over and over, you’ll get better a lot sooner at that aspect.
This is why you should set aside time for deliberate practice in addition to normal practice if you want to get considerably better at a certain thing.
To keep doing one thing until you get better at it may sound monotonous, but it’s really important if you want to become really good.



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