alexandra wrot calligraphy type a

How did you become a calligrapher? I’ve been asked more than once. And the answer is, I just sort of did, which isn’t really an answer. But it’s the best short answer I have.

Once upon a time, for many years, I was a writer. It was all I wanted to do and all I ever thought I would do. I worked online, in print, for editors, on spec. Fiction, drama, film journalism. In college, I got my first longterm writing job and quit my part time retail job, which never really paid much as the clothing discount sort of canceled out that whole paycheck thing.

I was writing screenplays and doing magazine work and starting to do some editing, too. Into my mid-twenties, I was a writer.

Photography was always something I loved, but not LOVED in the way I loved writing. (Not like something I’d tattoo on my foot.) The heart in “I Heart Writing” was a great big puffy heart of the “I Heart NY” sort, while the one for photography was a bit smaller.

I chose not to major in film because I felt that it was a world I grew up in and knew well. Maybe I’d go to film school for my MFA. Undergrad, I stuck with English Lit and Creative Writing. Words, words, words. Yet from my early teens, I was always carrying a camera or video camera. I was making short films and documentaries. I was winning awards for the stories I wrote, and the ways that I told them. Still, photography remained a hobby until I was hired to do some commercial work in 2005, and suddenly I had a hyphenated career. Every picture tells a story.

The social media news cycle made for writing deadlines more Broadcast News than anything I’d ever known. I was used to having 6, 8, 12 weeks to do research and interviews and develop a story. Suddenly it was 24 or 48 hours, maybe a week-ish. I could balance editing and writing, but photo had to give a bit.

And the timing was right. Because another one of those things I loved and always did but not for work was turning into work, and there was no way I could be doing ALL THE THINGS.

Hand lettering, modern calligraphy, writing in the most literal sense. When I was young it was for yearbook and addressing holiday cards. Later place cards and invites. And then, just a few years ago, I began asked to do it as work, and I found myself happy to balance the speed at which writing for the internet moved with the slow and deliberate pace of pen and ink.

In 2010, Type A Calligraphy was born.  (Tristan of Besotted Brand came up with the name.)

In the last several years, my writing life has changed so much I sometimes feel a bit adrift. The speed of social media work was hard to balance with creative habits I’d spent over a decade developing. But I looked at the direction writing work was going and wanted to evolve with it. Change was hard.

Do you know what doesn’t change much? Handwriting.

Sitting down with a ream of paper and a full inkwell is like meditation. I leave the desk and keyboard, or the pages of editing I’m marking up, and move to my dining room table where I sit down with one word or perhaps twelve. Focusing on the letters as they lose their meaning, becoming shapes and lines.

I write. And I write. Great big pink puffy hearts, I write.


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