I’ve been missing having so much time with traditional art tools since I graduated and started practicing up my digital ones. But there’ve been recent rumblings about the real stuff and I’ve begun questing for some quality pencils to go with the paper I’ve set aside to make my next sketchbook (Strathmore 400 recycled, if you’re in the market).
Writing and drawing—not to mention cartooning—with physical tools is as much hearing the graphite sizzle across the page as it is constructing sentences. We’re forced to slow down, be deliberate, get our fingers dirty.
Changing up tools is resetting your habits and breaking the ubiquity of screens and electronic devices we’re surrounded with. That can reconnect us not only with the past, but with slightly disused brain pathways.
The million things that pull at our attention like a three-year-old at our pants leg are bad enough. But life itself can often be just as distracting.
And sometimes that’s necessary. The work we do isn’t always the most important thing, rarely the most urgent thing. Emergencies arise. Which makes it sound as if they begin to slowly appear, like sunrise or flowers. But in truth they’re usually huge and right in front of you like a delivery truck around a blind corner in the wrong lane.
You have to deal with emergencies. But you also have to deal with less harrowing urgencies, too. Deadlines at work, kids’ recitals, mom’s birthday, trips to the airport.
Here’s another thing the daily habit will get you: an opportunity to catch the fire when it flickers into being under your nose.
Waiting for inspiration is a recipe to never do any work. You might wait till doomsday, who knows? But keeping a steady creative pace means you’ve got a flow going. There are insights and truths within that flow. The funny thing is, you might let them loose in your work and not see them at first. They’re a spark and fluff of flame at the edge of your vision. Ignore it and you keep rooting out tinder and kindling in another direction on another day.
Finding a fire doesn’t necessarily mean you have a bonfire coming, but it can light the way to one if you’re ready for it.
[Jared] Horvath and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne found that those who binge-watched TV shows forgot the content of them much more quickly than people who watched one episode a week.
“Reading is a nuanced word,’ [Bakshani] writes, “but the most common kind of reading is likely reading as consumption: where we read, especially on the internet, merely to acquire information. Information that stands no chance of becoming knowledge unless it ‘sticks.’ ”
Or, as Horvath puts it: ‘It’s the momentary giggle and then you want another giggle. It’s not about actually learning anything. It’s about getting a momentary experience to feel as though you’ve learned something.”
Slow and steady, the trope that keeps making comebacks.
The world also lost a great light of writing and art this past week. Ursula K. Le Guin was a genius who lived a long and creatively fruitful life, and she left us with so much. Margaret Atwood’s eulogy in WaPo was one of my favorite remembrances.
About the Author
Marcus is a maker of things and thoughts. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon.