"In many ways, handwriting serves as an extension of an artist's process," says Mary Savig, the curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. "An artist might pen a letter just as she or he might draw a line. With this in mind, writing a letter can be an artistic act."
Art is an expression of who we are. It can take many forms and is much more than the conventionally defined painting, sculpture, drawing or singing. To live artistically means to be able to fully express who we are without the impact of societal trends or even the influence of our upbringing. It requires time spent reflecting and inquiring about what lies in the depth of our hearts, what makes us unique in a way that is about comparing ourselves to others but being authentically different.
From that perspective, if we understand that an artistic life is a life that moves in the direction of finding our unique persona (also called our genius), every one of us is an artist. This statement can trigger many feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, comparison, and imposter sentiment, but if we accept it, it opens up a whole different quality of life.
To live a life of art means to live a life of beauty. It does not negate the difficult times, both collectively and personally, but it does bring a sense of space available for creation and expression. To have a practice where we make art of our life, from our life, helps us grow more grounded into who we are. Handwriting is one of these practices.
Everyone's handwriting is unique and reflects that person's embodiment on the page. Although we can become specific about the pen, ink, and paper we use, there is no need to be so particular to express ourselves in a letter and touch the receiver. When we sit with the intention to write a letter, we are engaging in a creative activity. We are taking the time and making space in our lives to gather our thoughts and render them in words on paper. It is intimate, genuine, personal.
And because it comes from that intentional place and has these qualities, it touches people deeply.
To read someone's letter months, years after we receive it is always a moving moment. The way the lines flow, the way that person makes a particular curve or strike in some letters, the way they leave space between lines and paragraphs is sure to take us on a sensory journey. We hold an artistic expression of that person. There is the meaning of the words, and there is the sensation we receive through the handwriting's form itself. Something that is not articulated by language is conveyed unconsciously.
Just like art.
My program ReConnect is based on these principles, and each month you write to another participant. You also receive a letter from another member of the ReConnect community, and from myself. To inspire your writing and help you find the internal space to write, you have access to prompts, audio and videos every month. They help us stay in touch with the imaginative and artistic parts of ourselves that may not be encouraged by our busy and digital culture.
You and I have the artistry of our lives in our hands and can express ourselves clearly and in a profound way - even beyond the words we choose - by writing letters. It is a precious practice in times of change; it is a valuable gift in a world that rarely encourages us to pause and reflect. It is a gift of authenticity.
What you make makes you,
so let's make art and beauty for each other.