You Can Draw

An Essay by Dee Dreslough. Public Domain - feel free to repost, copy, reprint and redistribute freely.

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Drawing is a kind of travel. When you start out, you're almost as far from your final destination as you can be - only one step closer from when you had no intention of making the journey at all. You can't see your destination. You can't even be sure of where you'll end up. But the commitment to move has been made. The more steps you take - regardless of the direction, the closer you move to some new destination. Some new you. At that first step toward being an artist, people won't necessarily see where you're going, but you will have begun a subtle change within yourself. The closer you move toward your destination, the more your new identity will emerge and be visible to others.

I meet people who say "I can't draw". This is like saying "I'm not in Idaho." Learning any skill is as easy as getting to Idaho. They just need to make that first step, and the next, and the next, and to believe that they can be in Idaho. It's just that simple. There's no magic bullet. Practice is travel - each doodle takes you one step closer. Enjoy the ride! Expect nothing as you draw - just draw and draw…and you'll be pleasantly surprised. "Wow..that leaf came out better than I'd expected!" I find myself saying things like this every single day I put pen to paper.

I remember as a child, drawing my model horses again and again, often shredding the papers in tears because I was so dissatisfied with my results. I had expectations, high ones. The most pleasure I got from drawing was when I used it to fill time in boring classes. I'd scribble, and fanciful, exciting creatures would leap out of the lines at me. Once I recognized them, I learned to refine them, but it took YEARS. And they were some of the most joyful years I've had. Don't try too hard. Just try.

As my drawings emerged, the people to either side of me started recognizing the creatures too, and connected with them. "Hey! Cool dragon!" Smile. "Thanks." Smile. Scribblescribblescribble. It's like meeting people at friendly roadside cafés as you travel. "Going to Idaho?" Smile. "Yep! How'd you know?" Smile. "I can see how far you've come by the route you're tracing on the map there." Each drawing marks another mile down on your map, and people will see that.

Now, people often worry that they'll be rejected on their journey. Those first steps are often faltering, but often the most honest. It has been my experience that people will more often try to be helpful - try to 'correct' your course. "Naw…Naw…To get to Idaho, you need to take 88. Head north from here…" My advice on dealing with this well meaning travelers: Listen to them all, and take it all with a grain of salt. Follow your heart. Your path to your destination will be unique - unlike anyone's in the world regardless of how hard you try to take another's exact route.

You may not know what your destination looks like, feels like. It might be completely different from what you expected, but only by taking the first step will you ever know. You can draw. Everyone can. You have your own way, and it's like a fingerprint. It may not be as fancy as someone else's work, and you may not even like it as well, but it's YOUR way. It's YOURS, and special. By bringing your vision into the world, it can help you come more fully into the world too.

You can only get there by taking the first step, and the first step is fun. Draw something. Doodle on a napkin. Scribble in a notebook. Do it every day. Take your first step. Idaho's nice any time of year.