“Erica” 12×12, oil on canvas, $200.00 Buy Now
I moved into my new house in July. The whole buying and moving process stunted my painting productivity for a couple weeks. I eventually unpacked the unruly boxes of paints and canvases, and started a painting before I’d ever organized my studio space. It’s still not organized. Things are still unruly.
I knew that the space would never be perfectly put together, and if I waited for it to be, I’d never create a single painting in the house I’d been able to buy because of my paintings.
So amid the clutter, I painted a rooster. It was okay. Nothing grand. Meaningful because it was my start, was me getting back to the ritual of painting– just doing it when there were a million legitimate reasons not to.
It sat on my shelf for months. I’ve wanted to revisit it; I finally did. Today’s painting is a revision of that painting. Where the original version is timid, this edit makes it bold.
It didn’t start off so well because I had no plan other than to do it. Halfway through my edit I thought about giving up. I had made it far worse, not better. But the muses eventually honored my devotion, my persistence and the last few strokes were easy, fun. I was seeing not what I’d planned to see (I hadn’t planned) but something grander than I could have planned. The revisions were working.
My advice to any creative or ambitious person is always this: do it. Don’t wait for inspiration, time, security, confidence. The doing brings those things. Waiting keeps them at bay.
One of the most inspiring “do-ers” I know is Erica for whom today’s painting pays tribute. Here’s how she describes her bravest act:.
I wasn’t going to send anything, but in your first painting-a-day post, you said you were still accepting stories, so here I am.
I promised myself I wouldn’t get too wordy in this email (hahahahaha), and even though you warned us many moons ago in creative writing class against putting disclaimers before our work, I do have to say that it took me so long to send something in because I was caught up in the idea of bravery and what it means. I’m sure all people have had this hesitation before sending you their story. It seems odd to think of our own actions as brave– I feel as though bravery is something we attribute to others, and the things we do are simply what we do because we must, or because to not do them, difficult as they may be, is unthinkable. And that doesn’t always seem like bravery.
There’s a whole world of brave deeds out there that we hear about day after day– truly incredible acts of courage– and it feels funny to step into that same circle and say this is what I did under that same label.
Brave is not anywhere on the list of words I would use to describe myself. But here is the bravest thing I think I’ve done so far.
In 2012, I decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) two days before the start of the event, with no plot and no plan. This was so far out of character for me, the careful planner and preparer. To write 50,000 words in 30 days is not something that regular Erica could even conceive of doing. But I had wanted to do it for so long, and always had an excuse. In 2012, I had the perfect excuse: I would be graduating college in less than a month and what with internships, final exams, and the other stressors of a graduating senior, there was no way that I could compete this year.
But I did it. For the first time, I didn’t think; I didn’t plan; I didn’t excuse myself. I signed up. I was full on Nike: JUST DO IT, ERICA! At the time, I, the girl with such an enormous fear of failure, journaled: “If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail in a high-flying epic scheme of intensity… I do not want to fail by default, by not trying anything.”
I went in without a plot, without a plan, without a hope of anything other than maybe just getting a little writing experience. And I had the time of my life.
I came out on the other side with over 50,000 words (thus “winning” NaNoWriMo) and the beginning of a first draft of a novel. That lengthy but uncompleted draft is now on its fifth version, complete and whole, totaling 58,394 words. It has gone through professional editing and is on its final draft.
My actual bravest deed will be letting it go by sending it to an agent, to try to get it published. This is what I’m using my November for: a final edit, and then I will probably cry a little and send it out into the world. It’s terrifying, but I will do it, because like I said earlier, it doesn’t feel brave– it feels like something I have to do. To not do so is unthinkable. This is what I have worked so hard and for so long to do. And it’s time to move forward with it. It’s time to just DO… again!
I’m still looking (begging?) for stories of bravery. If you’re thinking about it, please be like Erica, and just do it.