I drove up to Half Moon Bay on Friday to revise my manuscript one last time before I sent it to my editor. Even though my office is cozy, with my favorite books lining my bookshelves, and my cozy reading chair in the corner, the final edit is tough enough that I wanted a breath of fresh air.
I set my alarm early, hoping to catch the sunrise. The morning was still dark when I stopped at Starbucks for my soy latte. On my way up the freeway, the sun peeked over the mountains behind me, painting the sky red and pink and orange. When I turned off on 92, heading west for the ocean, I passed the reservoir. Steam rose off the still water, breathtaking and eerie against the sunrise. I drove on toward the ocean, past pumpkin patches and farms. Once I found a parking place by the beach, (no small feat) I left my manuscript behind and took my sketchbook and pencils out to the sand. This is what Sadie would do, after all. (If Sadie could drive, that is.)
I listened to the waves and drew the picture that has stayed with me as I’ve written Waves of Light, the picture that appears in Sadie’s head every morning, and doesn’t leave it until she falls asleep at night. She tries to ignore the image, tries to pretend it isn’t there, but by the end of the book, she has to find out what the picture means for her.
Words are my artistic medium, they’ve always been. You could even say words are my friends. Images drawn on the page, on the other hand, are more like intriguing strangers. I want to draw them, I see them in my mind, I have a million words to describe them. And yet, when I start to draw them, I see all the ways the image isn’t exactly what I saw in my mind. In the same way that words need to be written and rewritten, shaped into what they can become, I think images need to grow. Somehow, though, I have no grace for myself when it comes to drawing. I can’t let myself fail first and then fix the problem.
But Friday morning, on the beach, I let all of my self conciousness go, just for a few minutes. I drew what I could, not judging myself or the lines on the page. And I saw that there wasn’t only meaning in the drawing for Sadie, but also whimsy. The image itself is something she’s afraid to see about herself. But she plays her way in, by drawing with vivid colors and adding surprises here and there.
I’ve been meaning to draw more lately, and now I know I’ve got to start. Drawing may not be my medium, but maybe that’s a good thing. Since I can’t take myself too seriously when I draw, I have the chance to really play.
I think artists should try a medium beyond their comfort zone. Be a beginner as often as you can. Remember what it’s like not to know the answer. Because all those tricks and skills and tools you’ve built along your path sometimes get in the way. We get overconfident and we don’t stay open to surprises. We can’t see what’s right in front of our noses. At least, that’s how it is for me. If you do try something new, comment. Let me know how it goes for you. I really want to know.