Many of us have had complicated, emotional relationships wrought with highs and lows. Some of us have had lifelong ones. Me? Well, mine is with drawing.
As soon as I could hold a pencil, I was drawing on every scrap of paper I could find. My mother didn’t throw out receipts. My dad kept extra stacks of Post-Its on his desk at work. I was obsessed with drawing everything, anything, all the time.
Unfortunately, I’m also a perfectionist. This has also plagued me my entire life and has been much more a curse than a blessing. Perfectionism prevents us from pursuing our dreams, from entertaining possibilities. It makes us believe we are never good enough.
In middle school, I became keenly aware that my artistic abilities didn’t measure up to those of several of my classmates. I started to lose my interest in drawing. I thought, if I couldn’t be the best, I didn’t want to do it. And so, eventually, I stopped drawing altogether.
Years passed, and I found myself in an art course based on a book called DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN by Betty Edwards. I had no expectations, but had signed up for it simply because it sounded like an easy elective to add to an otherwise challenging semester in my master’s program.
But this elective actually ended up changing my perspective in major ways – not just on drawing, but on how I viewed things in general. For those who are unfamiliar with this book, DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN is more than just an instruction on drawing, it is a handbook on “perceptual training.” For the blocked artist or for the person who believes they can’t draw, this re-training of our impulsive thought processes is invaluable. In working through the book, I learned:
- Our stereotypes prevent us from seeing reality. Maybe this is an obvious statement at first blush, but mostly we don’t realize what stereotypes we hold. When we draw, these stereotypes are often boldly apparent.
- Our assumptions about our abilities prevent us from realizing our potential. Anyone who works through this book will be astonished by the pictures they start off drawing – and the ones they end up drawing. We are so much more capable than we even realize, and once we see it in our drawings, we begin to see it in other areas of our lives, too.
- Talent is not set in stone. Our minds are adaptable. Drawing can be taught. And creativity is not directly tied to our ability to draw. If you’re passionate about something like drawing, keep at it even if it you’re not the next Picasso. If you’re interested in a new craft or hobby, give it a try—you never know what you might be a natural at!
These revelations, along with my final composition in the course, made me realize that my misperceptions had been preventing me from drawing, and from clearly seeing so many other things in my life.
When we assume, when we judge, when we think we know the outcome before we even begin, we miss out on so much.