CHOOSING A NIB HOLDER
There are so many different forces working together to make for a good calligraphy experience. Your paper, ink, nib, holder, grip and experience. As a beginner it can be overwhelming to try and get everything set up so that you can just focus on your strokes and letters! Using a holder that works for you is important. What length should you be using? What grip size? Oblique? Straight? Ergonomic?
Oblique vs Straight
I always recommend starting with an oblique. That might seem like an odd suggestion because the straight holder looks and feel more like an actual pen, but I think that's what makes starting with a straight so hard. It's so close to a typical pen that it's too easy to use it like a ball-point pen, but you should be learning a new grip and new arm motion that's totally different from your normal writing experience. A straight holder also requires you to turn the paper at a much sharper angle than when you use an oblique, which can be very difficult to get a good perspective and sense of how your letters should be shaping up. It's also much harder to keep a consistent slant with a straight holder. So let's start with an oblique!
Now how long should it be? The smaller your hand, the shorter the holder should be. We default our holders to 8", so I recommend smaller hands to use a 6-7" holder. Different holders are made of different wood, all of which have different weights. Some much heavier than others. Until you know whether or not you prefer some weight to your pen, I recommend a very light-weight holder.
Do you maintain a death-grip on your holder in order to gain some control over those letters? I know that feel, bro. I used to get terrible hand cramps because of how tight I was holding my pen. This is so much easier said than done, but you need to train yourself to loosen that grip. Take a pencil, eraser-side down, in your non-dominant hand and press down with that while you're writing with your other hand. It will help take the pressure off your writing hand. You can also try squeezing the holder with just your thumb, and taking all the pressure off your pointer finger which should just be resting on the top of the holder. Along with proper grip I always recommend starting with a fat-gripped pen in the beginning. All our holders come with a big 5/8 grip, unless otherwise specified . This helps with cramping! As you master your grip and pen control you might find that you prefer a very small grip, and that's awesome! We make super affordable chunky carrots that help loosen the grip even more, they also help people who have arthritis or other joint problems. If you're interested in learning more about carrot pens, read this article: 5 reasons why carrot calligraphy pens are great for beginners. Another option is to try an ergonomic holder!
Oblique & Straight
As with most things, once you really start to master calligraphy and learn about your hand and personal style more you'll find that you have specific preferences, and that's a wonderful place to get to!
I'm not left-handed so I can't speak from experience, but I've seen all kinds of preferences. Most left-handers I know prefer a straight holder. A few prefer a right-handed oblique pen, and even fewer prefer a left-handed oblique pen. The best thing I've heard about it is this video by left-handed master penman, John DeCollibus: