Last week I attended BookExpo America (BEA) at the Javits Center in NYC. After spending three days around people involved in all points of the publishing process, I realized something big.
Lately, I haven’t been doing any of the three hobbies that I truly enjoy – reading fiction, drawing, and writing. So I decided to do something to change that.
During the summer of 2010 I did a 30-Day Drawing Challenge that I found on Tumblr. After BEA ended, I looked up another 30-Day Drawing Challenge list on Google, posted it across social media, and tagged my closest artist friends. I was given a blank sketchbook last month, so I used that because it’s lighter than all the big hardcover ones I have, and has smoother paper than the half-empty spiral bound I’m on the verge of tossing out.
Drawing implements posed a bit of a problem. I could only find Boyfriend’s Micron pens, and the nibs are shot to hell. But I used them anyway, because when I start a project like this, it’s better if I can’t erase or draw lightly. In this instance, the drawings themselves aren’t important; what’s important is that I’m drawing.
Erasing implies I did something “wrong” and leaves room for self-judgment. Is this line right? Did it curve the way I meant for it to curve? When I’m focused more on the process of drawing, I don’t need to erase. I’m not attached to the outcome, and the most important thing is that I’m putting pen to paper and creating something, anything.
Here’s something I wish I’d figured out before I completed two degrees in art: Every act of creativity is “good” simply because I’m creating. It doesn’t matter what any one drawing looks like. It doesn’t matter if I feel like a drawing is finished, or a masterpiece, because each one contributes to the sum total of my artistic skill and is an expression of my creativity. Unleashing my creative energy is always a gift. It will never run out if I let it flow unchecked. Artist’s block and writer’s block are bullshit. They’re resistance to the constant flow of creative energy, and it’s our own fear and self-judgment that puts up blocks. And that fear and self-judgment come from worrying about what others will think.
Yes, it’s a little different when you’re in a job where you’re creating something to match someone else’s vision. But if, when you’re creating for yourself (because you need to, not because you’re paid to), you allow yourself to create without attachment to the outcome and let your innate creativity flow through you, I promise you it becomes easier to create for others from a place of stylistic creative integrity. Your own style comes through because it’s been allowed to be released and honed. It’s a part of you and your creative process. The great, well-known designers and illustrators get jobs because of their personal styles. They don’t get hired to make something that looks like anyone could have made it. They get hired to make something only they can make.
I’m doing the 30-Day Drawing Challenge just for me. It’s a way to tap back into my creative flow without worrying about technique or critique. I’m posting every single drawing on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, to prove to myself that the end result doesn’t matter. The act of drawing is what counts.
And it feels really, really good to be drawing again.