Getting Back to Work

If you took time off over the holidays, today is the first day back to work. Even if you don’t do resolutions, January feels like a fresh start. A fresh start always feels good. But as the year goes on, we make mistakes and get older and do some things over and over, and maybe get criticized, and the fresh feeling leaves and we abandon any hope of change because “what good is it anyway?”

Sometimes that’s good–we don’t have to re-invent ourselves every day. Much like getting over the first page in a journal, getting over “messing up” the first days of the new year can be a relief.

The assignment here was to draw with permanent ink on watercolor. No erasing, no second-guessing. Just looking at what you did.

The assignment here was to draw with permanent ink on watercolor. No erasing, no second-guessing. Just looking at what you did.

To make sure I didn’t raise expectations too high, on January 1 and 2 I slept in, didn’t take my walk, and let the laundry go so I could draw. And wrote 5,000 words in the new book.

The important next step is to keep trying. Small things. I signed up for two online classes–both drawing/watercolor classes. And my decision was simple: I would post what I drew every day, even if it was awful. Even if I hated it. Even if everyone else posted gorgeous, advanced work (yep, they did). Because it doesn’t make sense to show only the good side. It’s just as useful to show the things that didn’t work out, because they are the ones you learn the most from.

The modern philosopher Alain de Botton reminds us to put success in perspective:

What I want to argue for is not that we should give up on our ideas of success, but that we should make sure that they are our own. We should focus in on our ideas and make sure that we own them, that we’re truly the authors of our own ambitions. Because it’s bad enough not getting what you want, but it’s even worse to have an idea of what it is you want and find out at the end of the journey that it isn’t, in fact, what you wanted all along.

You might like Bett ideas enough to watch his TED talk.

It’s Monday and you are ready to get back to your routine. Make it the routine you want. Know why you are choosing it. Because if it doesn’t make sense to you, it sure won’t help get you where you want to go.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach. She’s not sure she’s ready for this Monday, but she is jumping right in.




8 thoughts on “Getting Back to Work

  1. Thank you Quinn for you answer!
    May you enjoy your drawing time!
    I took the first semester of sketchbookskool: I found it great but a bit overwhelming with all the students’ activity around it. You made me curious about the Val Webb classes. Maybe I’ll take one too a bit later in the year!

  2. I like the idea of publishing the good, bad and indifferent . . . it helps others see where you’re up to, helps people see that sometimes, all you can achieve is mediocre and that that’s just the way it is for everyone . . . in just about everything.

    I’m about to watch the TED talk because I borrowed a charger for my laptop. In desperation I started canvassing the neighbours.

    And I have always been a fan of pen sketches on watercolour and yet I have never done any . . . it’s a commitment thing I think.

    • Drawing with a pen is MUCH harder than I anticipated. It’s good exercise, though. Someone left a comment on my wonky drawing that said, “I thought I was the only one who took two hours to draw badly.” So, it was not in vain. I’m also happy that it’s challenging me right at the weak spot–and, because it isn’t connected to work, makes me laugh at myself.

  3. I think you did a very good job on your cactus! I like both your drawing and watercolor background; in fact I prefer artwork which uses a minimum of strokes to the hyperrealistic one; although I admire people who can work for hours on a single drawing.
    After a class that went on for the whole year I needed a break and refrained from taking a new one. I did small drawings these last days (far from perfect – directly with pen) and I enjoyed the process. To take a new class I must feel ready – otherwise I can’t stick to it.
    Would you recommend your classes (maybe it is a bit too early to ask?) and would it be too indiscreet to ask which classes you are taking?
    Happy drawing! “Keep trying small things” that’s what I’ll try to do too!

    • My head may explode from drawing directly with a pen, but it is good practice. The instructions are to go slowly and be sure. I’m generally more sure at the top of the drawing than I am when I get to the bottom! I drew an ink bottle that was a cube, but in my drawing, it not only looked like it was melting, but it looked a lot more like a pyramid with a bottle lid. But I am there to learn, and that means practice. The two classes I’m taking are Sketcbook Skool (The Danny Gregory invention) and a class drawing birds with watercolors taught by Val Webb. I took a hand-lettering class from her and really enjoyed it. My goal was to do something I wanted to learn and to be an absolute beginner and have fun. Part of this is to get over my competitive nature and part of it to learn how to enjoy taking time to draw.

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