Choosing a Calligraphy Brush

Calligraphy is an ancient art, closely linked to the beginning of writing. Today, many people choose to learn calligraphy as either an art, a tradition, or even just for fun! Before beginning calligraphy, one of the most important things is choosing the correct brush.

If you’re considering calligraphy as one of your many hobbies, read on!

Choosing the Brush

When choosing a brush, one of the first things you need to know are the 3 categories of brush hair. These are: soft, stiff, and mixed. Pay attention because you’ll want a different brush depending on the kind of calligraphy you want to do.

Soft Brushes (for the experienced)

Soft brushes are better for more experienced calligraphy artists. As you may have guessed, soft brushes have soft tips. This means the brush has more flexibility. This is great if you’re experienced, but it may be difficult to control if you’re a beginner.

Stiff (for beginners)

Stiff brushes are made from a variety of materials, including horse hair and rabbit hair, but they’re most commonly made out of red sable. Stiff brushes are less flexible but they give you better control. In addition, stiff brushes are best for small calligraphy.

Mixed (my personal favorite!)

Mixed brushes contain both stiff and soft hair. For this reason, mixed brushes are my favorite. They seem to combine the best of both worlds—they’re not too stiff for the experienced calligraphist, yet not too flexible for beginners. In addition, they can be used for all kinds of calligraphy work.

Other Factors to Consider

While knowing the difference between soft, stiff, and mixed brushes is important, there are some other questions to ask yourself before purchasing a brush.

Is it Sharp?

A good calligraphy brush comes to a point, forming a defined tip. If the brush isn’t somewhat sharp, don’t buy it.

Is it Round?

This may sound contradictory, but the brush in addition to being sharp, the brush should be round. This means the body of the brush is full. Pretend to write with the brush and see if it holds its shape. If so, you have a good brush.

Is it Even?

The hairs on the brush should be even. If you see stray hairs, look away! Find a brush with straight, even hairs instead.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Some brushes are purposefully uneven. If you know you want a brush like this then go for it!

Stay tuned for more articles about the art of calligraphy!

10 Journal Keeping Ideas that Will Enhance Your Life


What should I write about? Will it sound dumb? Will I run out of ideas before I even get started?

Keeping a journal can be a rewarding experience, but lots of people don’t know where to begin. Perhaps the best way is to decide what kind of journaling you want to do, though this isn’t always easy. There are all kinds of different strategies, ideas, and purposes behind journaling.

My personal favorites are reflection and goal journals, but everyone has a different favorite.

And that’s okay!

1. Visit Dream Land

There was a green robot. It had three fingers and twenty toes, and it was eating a peanut butter sandwich, and…

Dream journals are a lot of fun. Most people write in their dream journals immediately upon waking, which allows them to “get down” every aspect of the dream they had while sleeping. Furthermore, dreams often tell us things about ourselves we didn’t know, and many people have found “dream journaling” to be a rather insightful experience.

2. Record-Keeping

A “record-keeping” journal is nothing but the facts. Whether you’re on a diet or keeping track of the various birds you see, a record-keeping journal let’s you record and store information. These kinds of journals are also great to look back on in attempt to find patterns in the information.

3. Be Grateful

Gratitude journals are extremely rewarding. Write a list of 5-10 things you’re grateful for every single day. If you can’t think of 5-10, write down 1 or 2 things you’re grateful for. Your list is sure to grow as you begin noticing new great things about your life. If you already have more than 10, consider yourself an extremely lucky and grateful person!

4. Online journal/Blog

Online journaling, or blogging, has gained popularity in recent years. Whether you’re using Livejournal, or hosting your own blog through WordPress, online journaling allows you to connect with an audience. This separates it from traditional journaling, which is typically an isolated experience.

5. Collage/Art

If words aren’t your thing, consider a collage or art journal. Cut pictures out of magazines or draw your own–it doesn’t matter! Expressing yourself through art can be just as rewarding as writing down your emotions.

6. Ideas, Ideas, Ideas,

Are you the brilliant thinker? The entrepreneur in the crowd? Use a journal to write down those wacky ideas your friends are always making fun of you for. Don’t hold back. This is the place to express yourself. If an idea sounds crazy, write it down anyway. It may develop into something more over time!

7. Academic

Scholars regularly publish in academic journals, but what about keeping your own personal academic journal? Whether you’re reading Proust for the 3rd time or observing butterflies in your backyard, write down your insights and hypotheses. You never know what brilliant phenomenon you might discover.

8. Journaling as A Gift

A gift journal is unlike every other journal because *gasp* it’s not meant for you. A good example is a parent who keeps a journal for his/her small child before giving it to them when they turn 18. But it doesn’t have to be a child, of course. Record memories, insights, and loving thoughts for any special person in your life.

9. Personal Reflection/Therapy

Therapy and personal reflection journals can be difficult. You might not want to delve into certain aspects of your past or remember the bad things that happened to you.

But it can be extremely helpful in allowing you to move on from those things. Many psychologists even recommend journaling to their patients as a way to work through their feelings.

10. Goal-Oriented

A goal-oriented journal is probably my very very favorite. The premise is simple: Just record your goals–both long-term and short-term–and track your progress. You’ll be amazed (and proud!) when a month, a year, or a decade goes by and you can look back and see all that you’ve accomplished.

Many people like to incorporate several journal ideas into one–and that’s fine! Just pick your favorite ideas and begin journaling.

Do you keep a journal? Has it has enhanced your life in any way?

Stuck in a Music Rut? 5 Ways to Discover New Music

Are you stuck in a music rut, still listening to the same 80’s hair band you listened to in, well, the 80’s?

Oh c’mon–acceptance is the first step to healing. If you love music but haven’t been able to move on from the 80’s, it’s time for a music makeover, so listen up.

5 Ways to Discover New Music (And Leave Behind the 80’s Hair Bands)

Listening to music is one of our most popular hobbies. No duh. You love music. I love music. Pretty much everyone in the world loves music.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with 80’s hair bands! But there’s a time and a place for it, which means there’s also a time to discover new music.

If you’re one of the millions stuck in a music rut, don’t worry! Here are 5 ways to discover new music.

1. On the Street

Street corner musicians have a bad reputation. And not without reason–some of them really suck. I once heard a man singing an out-of-key song about a skunk. Let’s just say it was not pleasant.

But I also once heard a young man playing his acoustic guitar while singing a hauntingly beautiful melody. I was happy to stop and listen for nearly 30 minutes. And of course there’s the story of the acclaimed violinist, Joshua Bell, who stood in a D.C. Metro station playing his violin–while crowds of people passed him by. Story here.

Moral of the story? Pay attention to your musical surroundings. You never know what you might miss.

2. On the Internet

The internet is a great place to discover new music. My personal favorite website is www.aurgasm.us, a site which boasts of bringing “an eclectic menagerie of aural pleasures.” I’m digging it. There are also some artists putting themselves out there on YouTube, if that’s more your style.

Do you have a favorite internet site for discovering new music? If so, let us know in the comments.

3. At a Book or Music store

Okay, so a music store might be a tad obvious. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for new music, pick up a random c.d. and listen to it in the store. Most music stores allow you to do this. If not, find a different music store.

A bookstore is less obvious. But it’s actually a great place to find music. There are magazines like Paste that bring you new music updates every month.

4. At a Concert

Now I wouldn’t pay $50 to see some random band I’ve never heard of, but most cities have dozens of small-time concerts going on every night for relatively cheap, or even free.

Scope these concerts out. You may be surprised to find some impressive local talent.

5. The Answer is Within You

Tried the other 4 options and still haven’t found anything you like listening to? The answer may be within.

If you’re not liking any of the music out nowadays, then you must do as your forefathers have done and create your own.Learn an instrument. Sing. Bang on pots and pans like a toddler. It doesn’t matter! Whatever you do, first and foremost create music you love listening to.

Is there anything I missed? Are there other great ways to discover new music? Let us know in the comments!

7 Great Summer Reads


There’s a reason reading is number 1 on our list of most popular hobbies. As our reading hobbyists know, reading allows you to temporarily escape from your ordinary life and enter in to an entirely new world. And summer is the perfect time for relaxation and escape! The weather is nice, so you can sit outside and sip lemonade. Plus, if you’re a student, you aren’t bogged down by endless piles of homework. While some students may be heading back to school soon, summer isn’t over just yet. There’s still time to squeeze in a few last minute books.

And so, without further ado, here are Not So Boring Life’s 7 Great Summer Reads:

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This Shakespeare play is a summer reading classic. And no, not just because the word “summer” is in the title. Shakespeare’s hypnotic language equals a pleasurable summer reading experience, true, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a particularly magical read.

2. I Capture the Castle

Both funny and quirky, this Dodie Smith novel is narrated by seventeen year old Cassandra, a would-be writer who lives with her family in an old English castle. Unfortunately Cassandra’s father, also a writer, has a tragic case of writer’s block and hardly anyone else in the family is fit to work, forcing the family to sell their furniture and live in poverty. Cassandra tells their story in a light-hearted funny style–all in all an engaging summer read.

3. Harry Potter

Unless you’ve been living in a hole for the last couple of few years, you’ve probably read at least one of the Harry Potter books. If not, summer is the time to catch up. The hype surrounding the books is not without merit–they’re engaging, plot-driven, and of course, magical. Thumbs up for Harry Potter.

4. Prodigal Summer: A Novel

Yes, another novel with “summer” in the title. Barbara Kingsolver, author of The Poisonwood Bible, returns her readers to the Congo in The Prodigal Summer, a book which features three different interwoven stories. Kingsolver’s descriptions of the natural world and her poetic prose make A Prodigal Summer another great summer read.

5. Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is a classic so if you haven’t read it already–well, you need to. You can buy the one volume edition on Amazon for a little over $13!

6. A Walk in the Woods

Or any other book by Bill Bryson.

A Walk in the Woods is all about Bryson’s 2,100 mile walk across the Appalachian Trail. It features a bevy of bizarre characters, poetic descriptions of nature, but the best thing about Bryson’s writing is his characteristic use of humor. A Walk in the Woods is a great summer read, yes, but for funny and vivid writing, any Bryson book will do.

7. Me Talk Pretty One Day

David Sedaris is another laugh out loud author, and Me Talk Pretty One Day is arguably his most popular book. It features stories about his odd North Carolina upbringing, his quirky mom, and his career path. Like Bryson, Sedaris is a regularly funny and engaging writer so check out his other books while you’re at it.

There are dozens of other great summer reads, but hopefully this list is enough to keep you occupied for the rest of the summer!

Writing Resources

Writing is one of our 50 most popular hobbies, so it’s no wonder a Google search for “writing” yields over 500,000,000 results.  So what makes writing so popular, anyway? At its core, writing is a form of expression as well as an important way to record our history. The earliest forms of writing were found in tokens used to represent a record of land or livestock. As time went on, writing became a way to express emotion. Today, writing is used in everything from poetry to stop-signs, from marketing campaigns to great works of literature. Heck, I’m using writing right now to talk to you about writing. I don’t have to say a word; in fact, we don’t even have to be in the same room. Wonderful, isn’t it?

What Kind of Writing Do You Want to Do?

Before adding writing to your hobbies list, decide what kind of writing you want to do. Your choices are nearly limitless.

If you’re serious about writing or are considering a career in writing, you might want to consider enrolling in a writing class. If not, all you need is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper (or a computer, if you prefer typing). Here are some types of writing to consider and some resources to get you started:

Poetry

There are all kinds of poetic forms–sonnets, haiku’s–there’s even free verse. If you don’t care about publishing, all that is needed is to write what you feel. If you do care about publishing, the best thing to do is read some poetry first. Here are some other poetry resources to get you started:

http://www.essortment.com/all/howtowritepoe_rjsm.htm – Basic course on how to write poetry
http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Poem – A wiki on how to write a poem
http://www.baymoon.com/~ariadne/how.to.write.books.htm – A list of books on how to write poetry

Fiction

Novels, films, plays, and short stories–fiction writing is diverse and exciting. Go to your local bookstore and browse the fiction section for some ideas. Or you can check out these links:

http://www.scifidimensions.com/Mar02/howtowrite.htm – How to write fiction by Nick Pollotta
http://www.essortment.com/all/howtowritefic_rrch.htm – More on how to write fiction
http://www.fictionfactor.com/ – The online magazine for fiction writers

Nonfiction

Nonfiction writing requires research and verification of facts. If you want to write nonfiction, check out these resources:

http://writingnonfiction.suite101.com/ – A great resource full of information on nonfiction writing
http://www.viacorp.com/how-to-write-non-fiction.html – How to write a nonfiction book
http://www.essortment.com/all/writingnonfict_reju.htm – 5 fast and easy steps to writing nonfiction

Journal Writing

Journal writing is a great hobby because you can write about anything you want! Many people use journals to record their emotions and work through life problems. Here are some resources to get you started:

http://www.livejournal.com – Keep an online journal
http://www.journalforyou.com/ – Enhance your life through journaling
http://daily-journal-writing-prompts.com/ – Journal writing prompts

Business Writing

If you want to make money writing, business writing is the most sure-fire way. It includes technical writing, resume writing, copywriting, grant writing, plus more. Here are some resources for business writers:

http://www.businesswritingblog.com/ – An excellent blog about business writing
http://www.biz.uiowa.edu/faculty/kbrown/writing.html – A brief guide to business writing http://www.4hb.com/letters/ – A long list of sample business letters

Academic Writing

This includes essays, reports, and research papers. Check out these resources for academic writing:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/ac_paper/what.shtml – Dartmouth’s guide to writing the academic paper
http://www.utoronto.ca/writing/advise.html – Advice on academic writing
http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~wricntr/documents/Overvu.html – An overview of the academic essay from Harvard University’s writing center

General Resources for Writers

http://creative-writing-mfa-handbook.blogspot.com/ – MFA blog about writing and writing programs
http://www.pw.org – Poets and Writers magazine: writing contests, connect with other writers, etc.
http://www.verlakay.com – Website for children’s writers and illustrators
www.duotrope.com/ – Free, searchable list of markets for fiction and poetry writers

If you have a favorite writing resource, leave a comment and we’ll add it to the list!