But what will you draw?

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When I was little, my older brother got a set of Cray-Pas oil pastels. We were both very excited. I watched as he created a few drawings. I asked if I could draw with them, but he said I had to decide what I was going to draw first.

I got frustrated. I knew I wanted to draw, but I didn’t know what. I just wanted to grab a color and start scribbling. I was serious about art even then, so I understood his reasoning: these were precious art supplies, not to be wasted! So I went to the top of our stairs and sat to think about what I wanted to draw. I eventually got distracted by something else.

But then, one day I was able to convince him. (What kind of older brother lets his sister use his art supplies? An amazing one!) I drew a sun, a flower, and a heart. None of them were very good, but all of them helped me understand how to use this unique medium. That was how I first learned about blending, which led to shading, which formed the basis for many of the creative things I do today.

As I look back on this, I realize two things:

1. Being forced to critically think about what I wanted to draw was an important lesson. It made me consider subject matter, who my audience was, and the purpose of art.

2. The only method that resulted in any drawings was the second one.

This is why I love NaNoWriMo. It’s a challenge that forces me to plan carefully and also dive right in. My first attempt left me with several pages of bad writing but a glowing excitement that I could, perhaps, write a novel. The next year, I planned. I practiced writing every day. When November came around, I wrote an entire novel. Ever since, I’ve spent every month that’s not November planning and thinking critically about my next story. My outlines are sometimes longer than the novel itself.

But come November, I madly scribble with glee. I go where the story takes me. At times I forsake the outline completely, and that’s ok.

Whether you are a planner or a pantster (flying by the seat of your pants), don’t be afraid to embrace wild creativity. Grab that Cray-Pas and scribble, if only to learn more about the medium you are working in. No writing is ever wasted. It might be unreadable practice, but you grow with each word you type.

Don’t forsake planning, either. Critical thinking leads to curiosity which is the heart of an artist.

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