Finding balance in a chaotic world

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February 2018
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Everybody’s an Artist

My daughter wants to be an artist when she grows up. She is always drawing pictures and constantly brings a stream of new pictures to us. Casting my mind back I remember that I too drew constantly. If you looked at my schoolwork you would notice lots of weapons, tanks, and spaceships in the margins of the paper. What is interesting about this is that I am a terrible artist. I want to be able to draw well but I just can’t seem to do it. Part of it is lack of formal training and practice, but part of it is also a lack of natural talent. Still, I do enjoy drawing and will occasionally doodle for the fun of it.


I read a book called Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie that tackles how a creative person can thrive inside a corporate environment. The author, an artist for Hallmark, often gave talks at schools and noticed that when he asked first graders who was there was an artist most of the hands went up. In second grade a few less hands went up. By the time he reached a fifth grade class less than half of the hands went up. Why is that? Obviously kids become more sensitive to other’s opinions of them so they become less willing to risk themselves by showing the things they create.


Of course, it is not only children with this issue; it easily carries on into adulthood. Ask someone to sing a song with you or if you can read what they wrote and you will detect hesitation. The message is the same, “I don’t want you to think less of me because what I made is not that great.” Soon we stop doing these things even if we enjoy them. The irony is that we only get better by continued effort so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I don’t draw well, so I don’t draw, which leads to my drawing not improving.


I never considered myself a good singer, one of the reasons I started playing drums. But sometimes when the headphones are on and the sticks are in my hand, I can’t help but sing along (after making sure no one is around). I discovered that singing is an enjoyable release. I also discovered that the reason my singing is not that great is because I try to sing out of my vocal range. When I sing deeper, the tones are much closer to what they need to be. I’d never have discovered that if I never sang. I’m still not that great of a singer, but I’m better.


So when Rock Band came out, I loved the idea. I already had played Guitar Hero a lot and the addition of drums to that would be the ultimate game for me. So I purchased it and it was all I hoped for. On a whim I tried the singing part of the game and found it to be much more challenging than the guitar or drums, but still it was fun. The big question was: would I be brave enough to sing in front of my friends? Soon we get together and decide to play Rock Band. I’m drumming away but after each song I ask if anyone else wants to drum. Soon someone takes me up on the offer and vocals are the only thing left. Well I grab the microphone and sing the song as best as I can. Did I feel self-conscious at any time? Not really, because we were all there to have fun and no one cared how well we did. Now, I’ll grab that mic anytime I want because I know that my friends’ opinion of me has nothing to do with my singing ability.


The urge to create is ingrained in all of us, so why not satisfy that urge? Write, paint, sing, play, sculpt, build, design, or dance. Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, do it. You don’t have to show anyone but to claim you “can’t do it” is only lessening what you can be and throws you off balance.