Tis the season where the temps go low and the energy goes high. More to-do-lists, more weather delays, more sugar, more together time, more, more, more! The energy can just get to be too much. There is a joy to the season for many things, but sometimes it starts to feel like the old adage “With laughing like that, there’ll be crying soon.” The lovely thing about drawing is it requires us to settle into a slower pace, that is meditative and replenishing to our nervous systems. The energy of drawing is a peaceful one, that is fluid and simple. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be all rosy getting into that slower pace.
It can be such a challenge to permit ourselves to slow down- it is a common experience to do just about anything possible to avoid shifting gears to something less frenetic and avoid your drawing practice. Inertia keeps us moving, even when we know it would help us to just be still for a spell.
I’ve used all these moves to distract myself from drawing:
- I’ll draw, just as soon as I get this studio clean!
- I think I need to buy just these 5 more art supplies and then I’ll draw… (but never stop moving to use them).
- I’m so fried from all the running, I’m too tired to draw.
- I only have an hour, so it isn’t enough time to really draw, might as well skip it today.
- Or the opposite, I only have 15 minutes so I’ll draw a rough sketch, but never finish it or come back to it again so my practice never deepens (but I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself because at least I did something even though it was a total shortcut)!
- And my favorite, the extra vague and haunting: I don’t know why I’m avoiding it, but I am avoiding drawing at all costs.
That last one is the worst because I feel the most guilty about it. I have nothing getting in my way but myself and I’m still not drawing. What I’ve learned as I’ve taught people one-on-one for nearly a decade and a half is that this is the most common distraction move my adult students use on themselves, as well.
Somehow, drawing feels a little self-indulgent when you could be cleaning your garage or helping a loved one, instead. It doesn’t serve any practical purpose, so it doesn’t feel very “productive”. And besides, if we sit there trying to draw, we might have to slow the pace down enough to hear our thoughts or even worse yet, feel some feelings. Or just be present in the moment. For some reason, that is particularly terrifying to many of us, myself included, despite drawing nearly every day for nearly 20 years and having a near-decade meditation practice. It can be a challenge to face stillness and presence.
Drawing is stillness and presence.
When we draw, we have to stay in the moment or we’ll over-draw (creating a mess) or get distracted and trail off… Getting present, where we aren’t worrying about the future (to-do-lists) and aren’t overanalyzing the past (ever won a past argument while taking your morning shower, anyone?), is something we resist doing. It feels kind of confrontational, for some reason. If just this moment exists and nothing else, will we be ok? Will we quit putting our best effort forward? Will we lose connection to loved ones, our work, will our home fall to shambles? So we busy ourselves as a kind of numbing agent, to avoid just that one, singular moment of quiet. And the next moment. And the next.
Break it into short segments
What I’ve learned over the years is that the first 10-20 minutes of sitting down to draw are the hardest. Those are the moments I’ll keep checking my phone/email. I’ll suddenly find I’m starving and need a snack. I’ll sit down only to realize, I really need to quickly use the bathroom. Then I’ll refill my water glass and oops, time to change the laundry and do 14 other things on my way back to my drawing desk. If I can suffer through those first 20 minutes and not pull all those tricks on myself, I’m usually going to slow my pace, find my thoughts are settling, too. I’ve found a good playlist that has me feel peaceful and the drawing is starting to create itself… I’m in the zone. So I set a timer and give myself a 20-minute check-in. If I’m settling in, I keep going. And if it’s a day I just can’t bear to be with that single moment, I give myself a pass and try again later. No beating myself up. Just accepting that the moment to settle down isn’t now.
I hope this helps you feel better about your own avoidance tricks. The energy of drawing is a special, slow one that is meant to be savored, not used as a weapon against yourself.