The past 1-2 weeks were difficult for me. Every time I sketched something out, I put the unfinished piece on my easel, and then it would just sit there. Because I was scared to go further, to pull out the Micron pen and draw the “final” draft. I was scared to mess up, to make a problem mark somewhere, to overdo it.
I was scared to fail.
But we’re always “failing,” aren’t we? Messing up? Mussing up? Tripping over our own feet? The difference is how we react to these screw-ups, right? Here is a general list of my reactions from least severe to most severe:
- Shrug it off and think: “well it’s drawn by hand, not by a machine.”
- Figure out how to make the mistake work for the overall drawing
- Sigh and obsess over it until I paint it, then feel better
- Sigh and obsess over it until I’m forced to start over
- Ask Twitter what I should do about the mistake
- Scrap the idea altogether
- Draw a thousand sketches on expensive paper and never move onto the next step of penning them in, turning my house into a haunted studio of drawings that “never were.”
The last one was the latest reaction. And it all started with one screw-up. One mistake that led to another, which led to another, which finally made me so scared to use my pens again that my hands would visibly shake every time I attempted to draw a curve or straight line. So what happens when I get stuck in a fear trap?
I stop working.
In fact, the mere thought of working during a funk like this makes me clean my house, or get caught up on some TV, or binge-drink coffee while reading click-baity articles online. Anything but draw. Anything but messing up. Anything but ruining yet another expensive piece of paper. Anything but failing.
But a few days ago I realized there was something I haven’t been doing lately, something every artist should be doing behind the scenes as they work on the big stuff: SKETCHING. And not just sketching the same old stuff I normally sketch, but something I don’t usually sketch, something I want to learn, or even just basic doodles to pass the time. I’ve been overworking myself on the big projects and the 365, and I haven’t been letting myself just breathe, make mistakes, and do goofy little drawings that will never see the light of social media.
And I had this realization when my Twitter friends online began talking about drawing people with interesting features, and I suddenly had to draw people with big noses and fun hair and dots for eyes. I just wanted to have fun, and if I messed up? Who cared! It was only a sketchbook drawing.
After sketching people, I began to sketch bobcats–to work on a drawing for #linasdrawpost–and then I moved on to the bigger stuff. With deep breaths and, yes, mistakes. But I finished their pen work and now I’m ready to start painting again.
I suppose my advice to you is if you’re stuck in the fear rut, go do the goofy side-stuff. Sketch out monsters, do animal hybrids, take photographs of something you never have before, or try a new film, buy a cute notebook that you’re only allowed to fill with Haiku. And make it for YOUR EYES ONLY. Let yourself mess up, so that you can get used to the idea of messing up. Who knows? Maybe it will trigger something new.
Sometimes you’ve gotta let yourself fail, so you can succeed.
Ever been in a fear rut? What did you do to get through? Tell me about it in the comments below!