Boustrophedon: Maybe It’s Time to Think Backwards

Zig Clean Marker on Pastel Paper

It’s week thirty-nine of our year long calligraphy challenge and the prompt was to create a boustrophedon. This is a multiple line text where the first line reads left to right, the second line reads right to left and the letters are backwards, then the third line begins the pattern again. Whew! Just reading about it made my palms sweat. I had the idea to use text that repeated so I could try doing right to left and backwards on a variety of letters. It actually took me four versions to get the lettering right.

As I worked and literally sweated I was reminded of the progress I have made in learning this craft. Calligraphy is a very anal retentive art form as the goal is to produce perfect letters. Over the years muscle memory kicks in and what was hard to imagine becomes second nature, sort of like learning to drive a stick shift car. As first it is totally foreign, awkward and confusing. Eventually the muscles get used to driving, or in my case writing, and the brain no longer has to work as hard to produce the desired motions. Once the basics are mastered and the idea of perfection is released THAT is when creativity is allowed to thrive!

Being forced to go against what we do without thinking is a great exercise. It forces us to concentrate , relearn and process through all that we do yet at an entirely more focused level. Here I was reminded of letter forms, of thick’s and thins and the reason certain letters blend together well. I was also reminded of my own weaknesses and strengths AND how much more I still want to learn.

I dare you to try taking something you do without thinking – at home, at work, within your own hobby – and try to do it backwards or with your other hand. It will feel strange and you will probably be disappointed in the end result first time around. I encourage you to notice how it makes you focus and think differently. It will make you appreciate your progress, your skills and hopefully give you a fresh perspective on other problems. Maybe your current problem just needs a little backwards thinking!

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