As part of my whole new year new me plan — that’s sales pitch speech for I took advantage of the collective concept of transitional space to fold in a bunch of new lessons and skills into my day — I picked up some drawing supplies and drawing lessons. No particular reason, it was a thing I have vague memory of enjoying and decided to try doing again.
It’s going pretty well! For a given definition of well, I mean, it’s going, I’m persisting. But I’m running into the same problem I did when I was a high school student, I can’t draw what I see in my head, I certainly can’t draw up to the degree that other people I know can, therefore what’s the point in even trying, and I put it down. Or I stop, or I put off practice and I put it off and I put it off.
This week I haven’t been doing much of it because it’s been a very rough week and I haven’t been doing much of anything, so I expect to run into this again. But on Sunday I had a fit of wanting to avoid it somewhere on the scale of I was almost more ready to pay the monthly bills than I was to do drawing practice. And this was something I was excited and ready and bouncing to do even before the appointed time of starting regular practice, so clearly something was wrong. I didn’t even have to do much mental digging to figure out what was wrong, this idea that if I can’t do it perfect right the first time I shouldn’t bother trying at all is far too familiar. In a lot of kids it happens because they’re told they’re gifted. They’re told they’re smart, they’re brilliant, they should live up to their potential, they should do ten different things in a day in addition to their regular schoolwork and they should be brilliant at all of them. I wasn’t told I was especially brilliant, especially gifted, or put in any G&T programs. I still got a good-sized dose of the everything is easy and perfect the first time or it is crap.
That whole concept is crap. It is bullshit of the first water.
I didn’t get the full dose of this toxic crap and I still have to remind myself that making mistakes, drawing a thousand bad things, awkward people and poorly shaded lilies and bowls of things that might if you squint real hard be fruit, all of these things are what makes a good artist. Making mistakes, writing stories that I look back on ten years later and twitch, this is what makes me a good writer. Playing Wish You Were Here or, heh, Ziggy Stardust and Space Oddity right now, playing them a thousand times, in bits and pieces, and making twanging sounds that made me glad I picked guitar instead of violin (seriously, have you ever heard the beginning stages of getting beautiful music out of violin, it’s not fun), this is what will make me a musician. And that means making myself draw the feather, shade the lily, sketch the stupid damn fruit. And watch myself doing it. And learn from my mistakes, and try not to get into the habit of making them, but do better the next time. And better again. Bit by bit, in slow steps that will be noticeable later even if they aren’t right now.
It’s hard. I hate it. I hate failing. I hate having to push through it to get to where I want to be. It’s hard and it’s exhausting and I hate making myself do it even more when I’m tired, when it’s been a rough week. But I do it, I make myself do it even if it’s just for five minutes because five minutes usually turns into fifteen as I start to do it and enjoy it even when I know it’s not going as well as I want it to, and I remember why I decided to make myself practice regularly in the first place. I make myself do it, we all have to do it, even educated fleas have to do it to get that treasured ‘educated’ status. Making mistakes is how we learn, it’s how we get a thousand sayings that all mean that, from “fail better” to “anything doing is worth doing badly.” A lot of badly. A thousand times of badly.
So I figure I’ll give myself a thousand days of drawing practice, and we’ll see where I’m at at the end of it. That’s a little under three years, isn’t it? Give it three years of trying, and failing, and learning, and trying again. And then we’ll see.