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Steve, Me and Calligraphy…

When I was about 16, I spent about nine months in a psychiatric hospital.

During that time, I was extremely ill. At one point, I became catatonic.

Following that hospitalization, I recovered at home with the help of my mother, who made two wise decisions.

My mother and my recovery…

The first, was to buy a dog for me to care for.

I was the sole family member to help her.

Finally, we settled on a Yorkshire Terrier. After accompanying my mother to dog shows and various breeders, we found our little pet. In this case a two-year-old retired show dog we named Derrier, or Derry for short.

Learning calligraphy was another recovery technique…

My mother was involved in a charity. Learning calligraphy was one of her chapter’s pet projects (no pun intended) so personalized plaques could be given to honour worthy recipients. These plaques were a form of fundraising.

I found calligraphy strangely therapeutic.

I loved learning calligraphy…

By no means gifted ~ my kid sister would go on to show much more promise and a career in invitation design ~ I found the quiet, intense concentration demanded of learning to wield a stick-nib pen with black ink tremendously calming. In short order, I was proficient enough to be able to fill in the little scrolls that were given out.

Already passionate about words, I fell in love with typography and fonts. This love affair persists, as anyone who receives email from me with attest. I change fonts often. Right now, I’m using Optima, which was designed by German typographer Hermann Zapf.

Me and Steve…

Thus, I found reading Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs’ fascination with calligraphy was one of the few areas we had in common ~ besides our passion for all things Apple. Certainly, technology is not my strong suit. Nor is salesmanship.

Last week, a PBS biography ~ Steve Jobs – One last Thing ~ focused on his fascination with typefaces and the Trappist monk, Robert Palladino, who taught him at Reed College. Calligraphy fired Jobs’ genius for design and his punishing perfectionism.

Yet in Isaacson’s biography, one of his ex-girlfriends suggested that Jobs was a perfect example of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A friend of mine suggested that he had bipolar disorder.

Why? Just because he was brilliant, a bully and utterly unorthodox. Jobs has been compared to Thomas Edison. Was he easy to live with, I wonder?

Jobs was far from perfect, but who is?

He was seriously flawed, from his eating disorders to his habit of taking credit for other people’s ideas, but even if he did fulfill the requirements of a syndrome in the DSM-IV, so what? Look what he accomplished.

I think it’s intriguing that a psychiatric diagnosis is slapped on Jobs because of his extreme eccentricities. Had he not made billions and changed the way the world communicates, I wonder. Would people, amateurs, be so quick to label him, now that he’s gone?

His devotion to his family and his wife are rarely mentioned in journalistic stories about him. Yet, he was able to reconnect with his sister and heal his relationship with the daughter he fathered and abandoned.

One facet of Jobs’ genius was to “Think Different.”

“Here’s to the crazy ones…”

As far as I’m concerned, it speaks volumes for his sanity, his emotional health ~ his vision. (Watch this 1997 Apple commercial. Listen to the words. It begins, “Here’s to the crazy ones.”) He gave Isaacson carte blanche with this biography. That takes courage, too. All the other salacious and sensational details of Steve Jobs life, the stuff that make good copy, don’t really amount to much, considering the  vast scope of his accomplishments. Even his habit of taking credit for the ideas of others.

Those people who worked with him and for him for years stress they would never have learned as much as they did were it not for Jobs “distorted reality field” and the demands he made of them.

They’re grateful.

So am I.


Image Credit: Pinterest

Steve, Me and Calligraphy…

Sandy Naiman

Sandy Naiman is a Toronto freelance journalist.

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APA Reference
Naiman, S. (2019). Steve, Me and Calligraphy…. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 26 Mar 2019
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