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Remaining an Artist

Earlier this week, at work, we were talking about what we wanted to be when we were ten. I could have told you sooner. 

Since I could hold a pencil, I wanted to be a writer. In explaining my response, I talked about how a special treat was getting “blank books” from the craft store and writing and illustrating my own stories in them (as opposed to writing in standard lined notebooks). 

What surprises me about this memory—beyond the “and illustrating” part—is that while I remember spending hours writing throughout all of childhood, I don’t recall any bit of hesitancy with the blank books.

To put it another way, a majority of my writing now is done on a computer. If I make a mistake, I hit backspace until it’s gone and try again. Easy. 

But with blank books? If I made a mistake? I suppose we had Wite-Out. 

And yet. 

When I look back on my memories of blank books and stories, I don’t remember any fear about putting pen to paper. 

In a medium that is inherently more permanent, why at 9 years old was I more unafraid of writing in my blank book than I sometimes am to type in a blank digital document at 29?

In high school, I had a Pablo Picasso quote taped to my wall: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” 

Despite its prominent location on my quote wall, I don’t think I understood it. How would I ever cease to create?

But doubt can have a way of creeping in, no? And life can get complicated. And so what then?

The other day, my friend and I had a paint night. I wanted to do something abstract and random. It’s hard to be critical of shapes and splashes. But then I had another idea of wanting to recreate a specific scene. It would, of course, be noticeable if it didn’t look like the picture. Oh, but does it really need to?

When I look back at my blank books now, filled with stories and drawings, I see inconsistencies in plot, grammar mistakes, and goofy drawings. This isn’t self-criticism. I was eight. But what I also see is passion. I see someone unafraid to write in a new journal or start a new project. I see someone willing to create for the sake of creating. I see someone who was born an artist. 

When I looked at my painting that recent night, I saw that young artist coming back to life… fighting to remain one as I grow up. 

Painting, drawing, fine art is not my chosen medium. I’m okay tinkering in and out of projects of the like. But if my art is writing—and if I want to grow in it—perhaps the best thing to do is dive in like my young self… sprawling on my bedroom floor with pen, paper, and ambitious idea in hand. 


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