We all know them - maybe you're one - those people who do everything. Every club, every academic event, every play, everything. I was one of them in high school, but in my naïveté I thought that was a phenomenon limited to tiny schools (I graduated in a class of nine, to give you a sense of scale). Not so, as I've discovered here at Midd. The group is larger, but correspondingly so is the number of activities they do. I am convinced that passion is a limited resource. With every activity you take up, the amount of energy you commit to it is just a little less. When I graduated from high school, I decided I was done with that. I don't miss being overextended, overcommitted, guilted into doing things simply because there isn't anybody else to do them. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed most things I did in high school, but I don't regret passing on the role of "girl who does everything" to someone else. Here I've been able to pick just a few activities that I'm truly passionate about, and I have plenty of energy to commit to them. But that brings its own set of challenges. Now that I'm not part of the overcommitted set, I get frustrated with them - perhaps unfairly, since I know what they feel like - because they have a smaller fraction of their energy to commit to activities that I care deeply about. I don't know what the solution is. It would be hypocritical of me, formerly one of those people, to tell them to narrow their priorities, but I hate it that doing something I love is becoming more and more stressful because it's being pushed to the bottom of other people's lists. Maybe I should go sign up for a few more activities to distract myself.
My latest assignment for Creative Process, reading Drawing on the Artist Within and doing some drawings, has given me some serious food for thought. Let me ask you this: can you draw? If you said no, why is that? Maybe you think you have no artistic talent, but here's the thing - according to the author, that has nothing to do with it! Drawing is not (necessarily) art. It's a skill, like writing, that can be learned by any normally functioning human being. Children are taught to write; we don't expect the skill to spring fully formed from their creative inner nature. We don't worry that teaching them to write will squash their native artistic skills. Writing is a tool. What's so different about drawing? The author's claim is that we think of it differently because drawing is a visual skill, whereas writing is verbal. The process for learning to draw may be different than that of learning to write, but it is no less attainable. I should say that by "drawing" I mean "producing a realistic likeness." Remember, drawing is not art, the same way a middle schooler's essay is not literature. Drawing is the technical skill used to produce art, just as writing is the means to producing literature. It is teachable and learnable. The author's claim is that the only block to your learning to draw is that you can't see correctly - your left brain gets in the way. It doesn't really look at objects; it recognizes and names them. To draw something, you need to really look at it to see the shapes, lines and shadows it is composed of - the right brain's strength. I won't summarize the book for you in this post, but I strongly recommend reading it. Next time you catch yourself saying "I can't draw," remember that you could - you just need to learn!
Thanks to the wonders of Site Meter, I can tell how people get to my blog. Usually it's through Facebook or similarly, but I do get some random and hilarious hits. This post has gotten two hits from people doing a Google search with the phrase "how to become a dictator." Hurrah for the internet - now anyone can learn the fundamentals of dictatorship. But not from my blog, as one irritated reader commented. It seems I haphazardly picked a title with key words that look nice to search engines - one way to increase site traffic, I am told. As you may have guessed, the title of this post is a bit of an experiment...