Sunday, July 22, 2012

a drawing a day

When I was younger, I used to draw like mad. I spent my childhood illustrating creatures and characters and scenes from the stories I was reading or writing or daydreaming about. In fact, there were more pictures of Smaug and Legolas in my calculus notes than actual calculus – just ask my stepmother (who, being a math teacher, was quite vexed about it).

Drawing helped me think. It set my mind free to wander - which is particularly helpful in novel writing. Not so much in calculus. (Why was I in calculus, you ask? That's a perfectly reasonable question. One that has everything to do with the fact that all my high school crushes were nerds, and nerds were always found in calculus classes. And computer programming classes. Which I also took, and nearly failed.)

Unfortunately, for most of my teen years, I saw my creative endeavours as things to be ashamed of. They were immature. They belonged in childhood. I even went through a period where I thought my art was bad (not bad as in "of poor or inferior quality", but bad as in "immoral"). And when I left home to go to school, I left my stories and my drawings and my daydreaming behind me. It was time to grow up, I decided.

So I lost the itch to draw, to put pencil to page and coax an image out of it. I got out of the habit of daydreaming and writing down my daydreams. I even stopped reading for pleasure.

Lucky for me, I woke up one day. I came to realize that these negative ideas I had about creativity and imagination were lies. Lies that were sometimes shouted, sometimes whispered, sometimes spoken through silence. (Silence can be the most dangerous, in my experience.) Sometimes the lies were told by others, and sometimes they were told by my own self. And they did their damage in my life: I spent five years not drawing, not writing, not challenging myself creatively in the ways that I could have. And though that may not seem like a very long time, I mourn the loss of it.

In light of this realization, I have spent the past few years slowly taking this part of myself back. Claiming it for my own again, only this time, without any shame. I did it first with my ceramic business, then with my writing, and now… well, I intend to do it with drawing.

But there’s something about going back to the thing you loved, the thing that was so deeply embedded into who you were for so many years… that thing you abandoned… and asking it back into your life. It’s almost like I have to earn its trust again. Like I have to go slowly, with my hands open and outstretched, and approach with gentle hesitance.

So this is what I’m going to do: for the rest of the summer I’m committing to one drawing a day. It doesn't have to be huge and involved, it could be something as simple as a sketch of my coffee mug in the morning. And I’m NOT going to gang up on myself if I miss a day or two. The point is to draw. Just draw.

To kick this off, here's my first one from last week. She's a character from the novel that my agent is currently editing. She's a bit of an oddball (the character, not my agent!) but that just makes her more endearing - to me, anyway.
And here's her counterpart.
I'll leave you with these here words of H. Jackson Brown, Jr. (which he accredits to his mother, but they sometimes get accredited to Mark Twain):

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

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