I draw eyes on the margins of my papers. I’m afraid it’s all I know how to draw. I fear any other type of doodling. I might write words on scrap papers, poetry in my sketchbook, but drawing scares me.
When I was young I was very good at drawing people. So I drew people. Over and over again. I drew the same girl hundreds of times, dressing her up with different hair dos and clothing styles. I drew people standing in a line to represent characters in the books I was reading. I was maybe the least creative drawer ever.
And I’ve never been able to draw an animal.
I remember the day I got over my fear of doodling. I was sitting in a friend’s apartment and there was music on and his roommate was there. We were all undeniably in our own ways trying to be hippies and out-creativity each other with our skills on the harmonica and our ability to choose the right album to play and the cheapest food to eat.
Someone must have started doodling and so I did too. I created a page of doodles out of coloured markers. I told everyone, as I was doodling, as I was entranced in something my sister and I call “puzzle talk” but that I’ve lately heard defined as “flow,” about how afraid I was to doodle. When I was done I held my drawing up to the light and assessed it. It had all the markings of a doodle: random patterns and a certain laissez-faire attitude. I eyed the two others suspiciously, but they weren’t the least interested in what I had created. That was when I knew I had successfully given up my phobia enough to let my hand draw without my brain getting in the way. I had doodled. I checked something off my list that night, as if it’s that easy to get over fears.
I took a life drawing course last year. I felt like I had been transformed minutes into the first class. I let the charcoal be an extension of my carefree arm and I just drew shapes and lines and curves of the body. I fell into a process I was used to. It felt safe. I realized drawing had become like writing. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I hadn’t really learned how to draw: I still draw eyes on the margins of my page. That same girl keeps popping up, with big eyes and a disproportionately skinny body.
What had happened was that for months leading up to my drawing class I had dedicated myself to writing. I had learned to write, or I had learned how to give myself up to writing, and this had helped me with my ability to draw.
Last night I had a dream I could play the guitar. I couldn’t really play the guitar, but I felt I was playing the guitar. I knew that if someone asked me to play a C-chord (is that a chord?) I wouldn’t be able to do it, but somehow I had fallen so deep into the guitar that I could just make music from it.
I’ve learned how to be creative through writing. Though I’m pretty sure that nothing else will ever grip me or come easily to me the way writing does, nor will I ever work as hard in anything or achieve as much as I will in writing, I will still be able to be creative elsewhere because writing has taught me how.
I still doodle in words, because words are my thing. But if I had to sit down in a hippie’s apartment and doodle with him, I could.