I’ve recently decided to start practicing drawing (again). For me to say ‘again’ is a bit questionable because I feel like nearly every time I have drawn in the past, I was aiming to create a specific work, such as a drawing of an animal, person, object, etc. It was never just practice and also never just for the enjoyment of drawing or to help me relax. In fact, the process of drawing in the past often made me more frustrated than relaxed because I was often dissatisfied with my results, and ended up obsessively drawing and redrawing the same part over and over trying to get it perfect. So I guess you could say that I have decided to start practicing drawing (for the first time), and not focusing on making any specific works.
This is certainly related to my tendency toward perfectionism (see I Hate Perfectionism), and perhaps related to my desire for social validation. If I draw random messy stuff in my notebook, there is no specific purpose and I would likely not share my drawings with anyone. This is a product-oriented approach. I was using drawing as a tool to create things for specific purposes, not because I enjoyed drawing. I know I enjoy the idea of drawing, but I think my previous approach is the reason I didn’t ‘actually’ enjoy it, and is the reason I was never able to do it consistently. If I didn’t have the time or energy to spend hours drawing a complete, presentable drawing, then I just wouldn’t even bother starting. The result is that many years later, my drawing skill has not improved very much because of the infrequency of practice.
I have recently realized a few parallels between drawing, photography, and language-learning. One that is worth mentioning in this post is that all of these can only be learned through the process of doing them – no matter how many drawing/photography/grammar books you read, you will never actually develop any skills unless you practice.
Many people know a lot of words in their foreign language, but can’t speak in a natural or understandable way because they spent all their time in class or reading books, not using the language; this is the case for me in many of my second languages. In my photography learning process, I read many books, but did not really start practicing on a regular basis until the last few years. No matter how many books I read, my skill did not improve. Wandering the street and reviewing my own photos has been much more useful than reading books (although I would suggest that everyone still read books).
When I was a kid, my dad gave me a ‘sketchbook’, perhaps to encourage me to draw, but I remember I felt that the book was fancy (it was hardcover) and that I shouldn’t draw in it unless I had something worthwhile to draw. The result was that I only drew a handful of things in there. Meanwhile, my brother scribbled a bunch of random stuff in his fancy hardcover sketchbook. Years later, his drawing skill was better than mine because he actually practiced.
Maybe I shouldn’t have titled this post “Product vs Process” and should have named it “Perfectionism, Part 2.” It seems clear to me at this point that perfectionism is the primary thing that holds me back in all areas of my life.
I can only imagine what skills I would have now if I had allowed myself to be bad at things and do them anyway.