I was in a public space recently, watching a young girl with a notepad. She was sitting quietly and drawing a sort of anthropomorphic cat. Each page had a similar looking cat but some had capes while others had helmets. Some were wearing cool boots and utility belts and others were carrying shields. Next to each cat, she had written and underlined the word “Powers.” There she would write things like, “can fly” or “is super strong” or “can turn invisible.” It was basically the Fantastic Four of cats who stand on their hind legs.
I watched the way she drew for a while, taking in her seemingly unplanned pencil strokes as she added whiskers and ears. She would pause, after finishing a cat and look thoughtfully upon her creation before adding their “powers.”
It’s been a few days and I’ve thought a lot about the girl and her super hero cats. When we are children, we don’t worry about our skill level, the time it will take to complete, or even what the end goal is. We decide we’d like to draw a cat with a cape and we do so. There’s no research into the best pencil or best kind of notebook. We don’t worry about what our family thinks of talking cats. We certainly don’t panic about whether we know the end to the story. We just draw.
Then, at some point, our psyche twists a little. What if we aren’t a good illustrator? What if people think a cat who can fly is weird? What if I mess up?
There’s something to be said about the childhood innocence of committing to a storyline or a drawing – to not worrying about anything but the joy of spending an afternoon lost in a notebook.
At some point, as we grow older, we grow into labels. If you like to paint, you’re an artist. If you enjoy telling jokes, you’re now a comedian. And while these labels can be helpful, they can also be suffocating in the sense of pressure they put on a person. Not every sculpture is meant for the MET. Not every scientific discovery will result in a Nobel Prize.
Sometimes, it’s nice to fall back to what made you love a thing in the first place. Sometimes, it’s nice not to worry so much about the technicalities and precision and perfect materials. Sometimes, it’s nice to just draw with reckless abandon, to write with no storyline, to create with no intention of what it may become.
Tap into your inner child this week. Draw. Sing. Laugh. Play. Create. It was never about being the best. It was about you. It was about imagination. It was about dreaming the impossible – and that is something you can do today.