Last time I talked about #Inktober and the idea of taking some time out of every day to engage in some activity that you might not ordinarily do. Of course, my first choice would always be drawing, but it could be anything. I think November I might have to make it Banjomber or Musikember or something.
I’m working on my #Inktober, #InkOnPaper drawings and have noticed, as I always do, that no matter what is going on in my life, drawing calms me down. It focuses me; it centers me. All of the problems and stresses of my life are waiting when I put my pen down, but I am better able to deal with them. And, curiously enough, I seem to come up with answers, when I have been drawing. Please understand me, I haven’t been thinking of whatever it was I was trying to sort out. I really haven’t been thinking at all. If I were to put into words what goes on in my head it would be something like, “Line, line, line… Darker? Darker. Lumpy blob is slightly triangular…. And darker there. Line line line…Higher?”
If I am drawing a figure, I don’t think about the figure. If I am drawing a box, I don’t think about the box. I don’t believe I think at all. I’m too busy observing to think. And still, as I focus on the drawing, my mind calms, and I disappear into the process. The centeredness I feel when I finish is my reward for doing the process. The drawing, good or crap, is merely a by-product.
If this were all that happened, it would be reason enough for events like #Inktober, but I believe there is more to be gained by drawing, or dancing, or carving wood, or playing soccer… or doing anything like this. It comes from the process of focusing. It comes from the satisfaction of trying. It comes from the peace that you find in complete engagement. What #Inktober does is build discipline.
Drawing is a discipline, in the sense that it is a field of study. What is more, it requires discipline; you have to make time for it, you have to practice, you have to commit to getting better. I have always said I can teach anyone to draw, if they have three things: one working eye, something they can hold a pencil with, and the desire to draw. I’m not sure if the first two are necessary, but the last one is. If the desire does not produce discipline, it won’t work.
Discipline, unless it is self-discipline is useless. I can’t make you draw. I can’t make you play scales. But if you want to do the thing, the disciple comes naturally. You will do ten push-ups a day. Until it becomes twenty. Until it becomes thirty. And along with stronger arms and a tight core, you get the satisfaction of having done something you set out to do. And practice, the process of doing a drawing, leads to discipline. Because you are doing it, you keep on doing it. Because the goal is to do it, not to finish it. And so you get better.
If you are good at something, or if you are only working towards getting good at something, you have something to be proud of. The process of doing gives structure, gives a base, a foundation for your life. Even if only for a few minutes – for half an hour. And that foundation is the start of inner peace. And that peace, that contentment, feeds back into our lives, and into the lives of everyone around us. I don’t have to be one up over the other guys at the office; I know my own worth. Why be a dick, if you can polish your car instead?
We are, I believe, a species that likes to DO. We take pleasure in cooking a meal, or hanging a shelf, or painting a miniature. It is instinctive to have something to show for our effort at the end of the day. A field plowed and planted. A deer chased down and killed. A kiln full of pots. But too often, our work does not give us that kind of satisfaction. Sure, I’ve sold three used cars, and made a big fat commission, but what have I created?
No wonder some people just go through the motions of doing their jobs. Because somehow, just getting the job done is seen as the goal. If all we are meant to do is get to the end, let’s just dig our graves and climb in. What we do, not how we do it, is seen as the measure of success these days.
Something like #Inktober is the antidote to that. Practicing music, jogging, meditating, drawing – all of these are about the process, not the result. The doing, not the thing done. But you know the real kicker? All of that ink, all of that process, that discipline, it’s turning out beautiful art. Because there is no other way to get there but by doing it.
We need more art in our society; not just for itself, but for what it does for the people who make it. We need more musicians, and more potters, and more marathon runners, and more model airplane builders, and more fishermen, and more car-waxers.
Because goodness knows we need more discipline. Because, let’s face it, who doesn’t have discipline and self-control?