Sometimes doing something that you love loses its magic. Now is the time to rekindle that something . . . even if it is ordinary . . . even if no one else cares.
When I was 10, I started drawing. I had a pad of unlined paper, a pencil and a collection of odd rulers. My drawings were more graphic, not too risky, not trying to do too much by free-hand. None-the-less, it was quite imaginative. I was careful and meticulous with lines and angles and measurements, and I traced around a nickel or a dime to make the wheels. The page always got a horizontal line to start with. That was the ground. Nearly every time I would draw, it became a concept car of the future.
Often, my car drawings had elements of old and new cars combined, and some original ideas that may or may not have served any real purpose other than aesthetics.
When our class would go to the library, I would check out books on fighter jets with lots of pictures. Then, my drawings were half car and half jet—incorporating aerodynamic ideas that I got from picture books on fighter jets and rockets.
Some of my drawings after that wouldn’t start with a horizontal line. Instead, while employing a little more risk and imagination, all of the lines and razor sharp angels were flying at mach 1.5 and had a tail of flame.
Once or twice, I would have more than one jet on a page. They were engaged in a type of dogfight, all of which took place at mach 1.5 and all of which fit on a single page of drawing paper.
I had the same routine before starting another drawing. I would thumb slowly though my previous drawings, partly to admire them, and partly to find the next fresh page.
One day, I suddenly lost my sense of imagination. I was smitten. As I thumbed through all of my previous drawings, I kept seeing the same thing. I only knew how to draw one thing. If the object that I was drawing was on wheels, it was a car. If it was on a rail, it was a monorail bullet train that traveled at mach 1.5. If there was no horizontal line serving as a surface, it was a fighter jet or jet-shaped bullet train spaceship car thing with air intakes and rocket engines on it.
I was disgusted. I had an epiphany. It never occurred to me before that my fabulous talent wasn’t something that engineers were waiting to get their hands on to help them conceive the next new body style for the Pontiac Fiero. No one cared about my lines and angles, even if they were razor sharp. And then, I didn’t care anymore. It would be quite some time before I would attempt to draw again. I was a young artist who, for the first time, was recognizing his huge creative rut.
Years have gone by since I traced pen caps and measured a razor sharp angle, and I recognize the ever-living creative rut. The more that candle is burned, the more unrecognizable it becomes.
I’ve had so many conversations with people of all ages who share a “one day” perspective with me. They had also recognized a creative rut epiphany and rather than feeling stuck someplace, they were wiggling and hoping to break free.
“One day, I’m going to own a ranch in Wyoming and make a living shoeing horses.” Or “One day, I will open my own shop and sell homemade jam.”
The belief is a mere flicker. It “once burned bright and clear,” but someone mean and ugly within me comes alive, scoffing, revealing that all of my drawings are identical. Even if there is some imagination in them (or none at all), no one cares. It’s not worth anything.
And I am inclined to agree with that grumpy self—to close that sketch pad for years. The next time I ever relive that old passion, it would be as an old friend with a withered and crippled imagination. I’d be a stranger to myself, finding comfort only in the shipwreck of others. I know that I have only my own self to blame, but isn’t it easier to resent someone else instead?
Today, I picked up a Number 2 Ticonderoga and froze… I had several long moments to reflect on that time as a 10-year-old. With eyes squinting, I decided to “relive” the drawing experience from my childhood. What’s even better, I decided to write this post. To share with others encouragement to relive their own passion and simple pleasures.
Maybe some tool as simple as a pencil, a horseshoe hammer, or a ripe berry smasher is all it takes to grant each of us permission to be passionate about something one more time. What if we were bold enough to say, “To heck with whether anyone else cares! I want to live again.”
Is it that simple? Can one simply stop self-deprecating thoughts and grant him/herself permission to live once more? I say that a pencil is all I need to care, and I will sharpen that pencil and draw! If moving out west and working in someone else’s blacksmith business is that starting point for you, than move you must! And don’t look back. If you need to take out a second mortgage so you can open your business of homemade jams, than apply! You need not pursue permission from anyone else to smash your first batch of berries.
The moment that external matters such as time, money, or distance appear to stand in my way, the old man has won and the flame is snuffed out. What a tragedy. I dare not imagine what would become of the human race if each of us cared more about what someone else thinks.
Rather than resign myself to a self-pitying martyr of societal affirmation, I might grant permission to myself and others as well, to do what matters to their own conscious, whether or not anyone else affirms them as such.
You’re an artist, a horse shoer, a jam-maker, etc. whether or not society affirms you as such, regardless of whether you use straight lines (safe) or draw free-hand (risky).
I resolve today to be more alive than the enemy; myself, society, my ideals, whomever it may be. For my next dogfight, I am now going to find the largest sketch pad ever made.