It’s comforting to open the 8×12 sketchbook. I leaf through thick pages, smelling the marker solvent on each filled sheet until I reach the cardboard nestled behind the last drawing blotting any seeping ink.
A kaleidoscopic melange of markers and pens drop from their unzipped case, clattering against each other onto the cheap pine table. Squinted eyes and pinched lips from my fellow library urchins turn towards me. I hear a shush from somewhere. I try not to care what they think, but in the back of my mind I’m wondering if it’s somehow against the rules to draw with markers in a place dedicated to words.
I don’t know what to draw. There’s no particular inclination within me. I’m lost, but not blocked. Plunging my hand into the pile, I don’t even look for a particular weight or color. Instead, I trust. Creative karma will kick in at any moment now. Uncapping a thick black marker I’ve selected, I don’t think. I let it glide across the page. It’s just a line. One line to start.
I can’t rely on talent. I’ve never had any of that. I just put in the work. I’m hard on myself, but not so tough as to censor the unpredictable so the critical eye is allowed to flash only for a moment. I see the line is sketchy because pressure wasn’t applied consistently throughout. I could give up. I haven’t gone too far to quit. It would be easy to just tell myself I’m not good enough because I’m not. I’m not an artist. Just a girl who loves to draw.
But I don’t give up. I go back now with an eye for improvements, filling in the spaces that need filled and leaving some mistakes that don’t look like mistakes. I know that sometimes art is as simple as knowing which mistakes not to fix.
A picture begins to form in my mind. Not in its entirety, but I can see a few steps ahead. I can draw other lines now. Colors begin to look appealing. I suddenly have an urge to grab a few more of them. They begin to take shape as if saluting from a line standing at attention. “Yes ma’am!” they shout, ready to accept the challenge I’ve laid out for them.
I double back over some of the weaker lines. I don’t chide myself over shaky hands. I was never meant to be a surgeon. Instead, I thicken them up, or turn them to shapes. I divide large spaces and fill in one division at a time. It starts to feel good. I’m bobbing my head to Rilo Kiley in my huge white headphones. The marker is just an extension of my hand now.
Lost in this microcosmic world of lines, I forget about time. I forget about the mean library lady. I forget I’m an adult doodling with markers when I should be responsible. I forget I’m failing. The questions of the morning have melted with the fog by noon.
When the drawing is finished. I can’t say it’s amazing. It wouldn’t sell or show in a gallery, but I feel a sense of accomplishment. I allowed myself to be mediocre. I created something. Maybe someday my mediocre efforts will improve to intermediate, advanced and so on, maybe not. I’m no longer concerned. I know that if I hadn’t picked up that marker to draw one line today I wouldn’t feel the way I feel now: satisfied, safe, happy.
Last week, my entire world came crashing down. I failed. I was denied from the Creative Writing program to which I had applied. I thought perhaps that my desire to learn and my proven record of hard work and success would overshadow some of my inexperience, but in the end my portfolio, my novel that is, just wasn’t good enough. I could quit. The evidence has been analyzed and I just don’t make the cut.
But I don’t quit. I accept my mediocrity. I celebrate the fact that for once in my life, I actually shot high enough to fall and fall hard.
So, I twist up my green Retro 1951 pen. I write one word. Just one word to start.
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