Have you ever taken the time to look at a piece of paper?
If you have, it was most likely a digital page of Microsoft Word, starting at the blinking cursor.
In this form, it’s easy to gather the sense that the page itself is expecting so much from us. I have never encountered higher standards than those of an empty page. Maybe it’s the tree it once was seeking revenge on us for uprooting it.
These expectations are most clearly felt when we have ideas that we care about- thoughts that demand to be made tangible. Imagine if, before you were born, you were able to choose what you’d eventually look like. Most people would strive to be beautiful, well-constructed humans. I think that our ideas would do the same thing.
One question that transcends this process, no matter what your idea is or which medium you intend to put it in, is as follows:
How the hell do I start?
For me, the first mark is never confident. Maybe it is for you. Never in my life has the first mark on a blank canvas, sketch pad or word document made it to the final stage. Overtime, I learned to make this mark nearly transparent, but it will never weigh any less.
Regardless of whether you change your idea, that mark will never be unstuck from whatever thought you started out with. You have given an idea or an image in your mind an existence outside of yourself. You have created something from nothing.
Ideas around the world shiver at the thought of the drafting stage. This could also be the anxiety stage. At this point, you have already invested your time and energy. Something concrete has emerged. Yet, maybe for that reason, this is where the original thought it most likely to change form or be abandoned entirely. This is a scary time for not only the image but the person translating it to the page. Lurking insecurities wait quietly to make their move. Mentally, the skill and patience required for the job increases exponentially.
I chose to draw a self-portrait.
This is the midpoint of the project, where routine and fatigue continually take turns. Commitment to the idea gains solidity. Understanding of how to go about completing the piece is achieved. Though the statement is cliché, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel at this point, though there is still clearly far to go. Though the movement of your feet towards it has become a mechanism, some deep muscles begin to quietly rebel.
I thought a lot about Van Gogh’s series of self-portraits: did he know that the last would be just that, his last? Thoughts and questions pop up only to be side-tracked. The shoulders must be re-drawn. The lips are too dark. The hair still needs infinitely more detail.
The illusion of completion. Eventually, there comes a point where you feel comfortable setting the piece down. Mind spent and hands exhausted, you want to move on with your life. Getting to this stage can take a few hours or a few years, but it is often the last stage only when deadlines are involved.
There are no thoughts, only the movement of the pencil against the page. Strand after strand of hair grows in seconds with one swift movement.
The work is never done, but all projects must be allowed to rest eventually. In that final stage, the project is accepted as it is. The idea settles in, now seeking to take up root in the mind of someone who views whatever it is you have created.
Now, I only wonder what you might be thinking.