Time for art mostly eluded me when my children were very young. One of the attempts I made to let get something, anything, artful done was what could be called doodling. After my children were tucked in and sleeping I might have a few wakeful minutes to myself to open this notebook.
I started without intention or plan. I just knew I that I wanted to make marks on paper. It didn’t matter what the marks were. I just had to begin. At first I just drew vertical lines. Then a pages of connected M’s, then squares, then circles. You get the idea? I could have just drawn page after page of straight lines. It didn’t matter. I just needed to get marks down on paper.
I was never able to finish a page in one night, not even close, which was fine, Finishing a page was not the point.
Eventually I started making other kinds of marks, mixing up lines with curves and dots.
Often I would be too tired at night to do anything at all. Sometimes my markers would dry up before I finished the page that I had begun with them. None of that mattered much. I was just happy to be making marks. This went on, and off, over a couple of years.
I just counted that here are forty marked pages in this notebook.
For some reason, one day, looking through the book, all I felt was despair. I was embarrassed that I was working on cheap paper, using cheap materials, feeling like I was creating something that was simply worthless. I closed the notebook, disgusted with myself, and didn’t open it again.
A few weeks ago (twenty five years later?) I took a workshop led by Marianne Rodrigruez Petit and Jen Monsen Leach. They called the workshop Reclaiming Your Doodles, #reclaimingdoodles. They talked about doodling as self-care. Both Marianne and Jen spoke about how the doodling that they’ve done has helped them through stressful times. I don’t know if they had voices in their heads, like I did, judging them harshly, calling the work trivial, but if they did, they were able to put that aside in a way that I was not able to do.
Recently someone in a class I’ve been teaching wondered aloud if this passion she was following for making things was worthwhile to do. Already middle-aged, she couldn’t see where it was going, and questioned the time and energy she was putting into something that she couldn’t see a way forward with.
I know what she is talking about. I could hear the voices of reason that people have inclined to grace me with throughout my life, questioning me on the decisions I was making, telling me what I needed to be doing, asking me why I was doing what I was doing in a way that intended to judge and discourage me. I heard those voices so much that they began to repeat by themselves inside of my head.
Here’s what I know for sure: the interests I pursued, and there have been many of them, have made my life richer, more memorable, more joyful. I’ve not been reckless when I have explored unconventional paths (well, maybe sometimes a little reckless: I am grateful for good luck), but I’ve never regretted the interests I’ve pursued.
The only regrets I have are when I’ve stopped.