Thursday 7 August 2014

Learning to Learn (or, why I hate editing)

I recently came across a poem I’d written at university. I remembered the poem, because I remembered what had inspired it (a night out where I and several friends expressed various sorrows and I noticed we were all wearing the same colours), but re-reading it I was surprised. The first couple of stanzas struck me as pretty good – better than my usual angsty attempts; good enough, even, that I thought maybe someone else had written it. But then I read on and knew it was mine: I recognised the mistakes I make over and over again.

Queen Svetlana Surtova - initial outline
I was trying to sketch Svetlana the other day and something clicked in my mind. I was struggling to get the look I wanted and eventually reached a point where I thought “ah well, that’s good enough. I’ll leave it there” and I realised that’s what I do. I never edit anything I’ve created – I take it to a point it’s about alright, and don’t try any harder.

I think it’s a large part my fear of failure, in that if I don’t edit I didn’t really try so if it’s rubbish it doesn’t matter. But if I try and it’s still no good… well, that means I’m no good.

I was talking to Mazza (my friend who introduced me to circus) along these lines the other day. He was explaining how learning circus has helped him be more forgiving of his mistakes and keep trying even if something isn’t easy the first time round. It’s a good skill to have and one we were both lacking because we were smart and did well at school without needing to try so never learnt how to. He’s disciplining himself to get past this in all areas of his life, and I want to do the same.

One of the reasons I don’t illustrate my blog is the time it takes. But that’s really just an excuse, and the real reason goes back to this fear of failure: I’m afraid people will see what I have drawn and mock it. But you know what? The only way to learn is to practice.

I’m no good at editing because I’ve never practiced it. My excuse has always been that I don’t know where to begin or what to do, and there’s a truth to that, but if I don’t try I’ll never learn. So here it is: a poem and a picture that I will edit (albeit slowly and painfully) until I am happy with them. And you lucky lot will get to see the process (and any advice you can impart is appreciated!)

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