Sharpening Pencils

My daughter recently learned how to sharpen pencils. She loves drawing so you might say this is a required skill and a good thing. But left unsupervised (or loosely supervised) she will turn a pencil into a tiny unholdable stub in a matter of minutes, with zero evidence of artistic expression. Granted it will have a point that could be used as a weapon, but I'm not convinced achieving that point outweighs the pile of unused shavings that is evidence of her over zealous sharpening.

Given my love of life lessons and metaphors, I was thinking about this in the early hours of this morning. How many of us are so focused on sharpening our skills and talent that we use up all our energy on this rather than making art? Maybe we think that our expertise and domain knowledge is the most important thing so we neglect exploring our creativity and ways to connect. Or maybe we're unsure of ourselves so we keep refining and perfecting before we let anybody see what we can do, exposing our vulnerabilities.

Whatever the reason, the thing about art is that it doesn't have to be perfect. It does have to say something, take a perspective. This makes vulnerability an inherent component. But being willing to share it anyway, that's what makes you brave. Courageous. Art isn't supposed to please everyone, but connection with someone to induce a response (positive or negative) is essential. If it doesn't connect with anyone then is it really saying anything new or interesting? Negative reactions aren't so bad once you get used to them. Maybe they're not your intended audience anyway. Maybe their an armchair expert who never has had the guts to produce art themselves. Maybe they'll share something that will help you make better art.

We shouldn't avoid making things because of what might go wrong, or what we might fail to achieve. We should use our skills and talents to create, to share and connect, not just consume and regurgitate.

As Neil Gaiman famously says..."make good art". As I not so famously (and sometimes frustratingly) say, "quit sharpening your bloody pencils unless you're going to use them!"

Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here