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"Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright." - Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

Let Go!

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When I was a kid, I loved to draw—loved it, loved it—so much so that it became an integral part of my identity. I was the serious, bookish, arty kid with glasses far too big for her face.

At the end of fourth grade, though, something shifted, and I lost confidence in my ability. (Some other time I’ll elaborate on exactly what happened.) “I guess I’m not as good as I thought,” I said to myself. “But at least I’m still smart.”

A few years went by. My sixth-grade history teacher, who was also the gifted-and-talented art teacher, praised some drawings I did for a project on the Greek myths, although I didn’t actually get into the G.T. art program until eighth grade. (I can’t remember why it took two years, but most likely he encouraged me to apply for seventh grade, but I didn’t, and then he encouraged me a second time, and that time I listened. Dear Mr. Jennings!)

I kept making art all through high school, but I never reconnected with the confidence of my elementary school days. When it came time to apply to colleges, I had my heart set on art school, but I couldn’t get a complete portfolio together in time. (Now you know why I majored in art history.)

Mind you, I’m not regretting any of the choices I’ve made, or wishing I could have released my doubts and self-imposed limitations sooner. This is my path, and I own it—and to be perfectly honest, I’m a much better writer than I am (or would have been) as an artist anyway.

Still, all these years I’ve wanted to go back and be that little girl again—to draw not so it would look as much as possible like the thing I was drawing, or so that people would praise my ability, but for the sheer joy of putting marker to paper. And this past Friday, I finally gave myself the chance.

I was having an art day with my Little Sister. She suggested I try drawing with my right hand, and something went PING! “This’ll be fun,” I said, and pulled out another sheet of paper. Here is what happened next:

 

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It’s just a doodle—and yet it’s so much more significant than that. I started at the center, making those pink and gray squiggles that reminded me of geological strata. La la la, those lines seem to say. Just drawing with my opposite hand. Nothing much to see here.

Then I thought, “What if I were to forget that I’m drawing with my opposite hand? What would happen then?”

Can you tell which part I drew next? I bet you can.

 

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I’ve been reading and thinking and journaling a lot lately about limitations—virtually all of them imaginary. Just think of how many times we say to ourselves, I can’t do that. I’m no good at that. My Little Sister only just turned thirteen, and I heard her say both of those sentences pretty much as soon as we opened up our boxes of art supplies. I can’t draw. I stink at it.

You say it, you think it, you believe it. But what if you were to let go of all that, and take an hour’s worth of pleasure in proving yourself wrong? When you say you can’t, you wall yourself off from whole new worlds of exploration and experience, whether it’s in the kitchen or on a playing field or at an easel.

You haven’t seen the last of my wacky drawings, oh no. I’m going to use them to develop fabric designs, and who knows what else after that. I might also work on making my mind maps more colorful and lively. I’m so psyched to have purchased my first sketchbook since high school!

How about you? What was the last thing to which you said I can’t do that (even though you really wanted to), and do you think you can summon the gumption to do it anyway?

1 Comment to Let Go!

  1. Kate's Gravatar Kate
    November 8, 2013 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    I have so much self-doubt, especially at work, and it is so counterproductive, but so hard to actually have confidence in yourself.

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Hi! I'm Camille. I only write stories that could never ever happen in real life, though I do believe in real-life magic. If we were in the same room I'd fix you a cup of tea, but for now we'll have to settle for a virtual connection. I'm really glad you're here.