break through the boring
The drawing instructor told us to bring a small, simple object to class. I brought a little stuffed penguin. The girl next to me brought a seashell. The boy across from me, a disposable razor. Then the teacher told us we could only draw that object the entire quarter. Nothing else. He said, “You’re going to get so sick of looking at your object. But just — stick with it. I think you’ll be surprised by what happens.” We all exchanged uncertain looks, wishing we’d picked different objects.
I can’t tell you how dull it was, weeks and then months of looking at the same stupid penguin. Stupid drawings of him standing up, stupid drawings of him lying down, all mind-numbingly, stupidly lame. And stupid. Then one day, in desperate whimsy, I tossed out a jewel-toned pastel of the penguin lined up with nuns, drenched in stained- glass sunshine.
I hate pastels, but I loved that piece. My teacher laughed when he saw it and said, “You’re getting there.”
Things got easier after that first snap of impatient irreverence. A couple weeks later, after I finished a particularly intriguing abstract in shades of grey (actually a closeup of chubby penguin belly, beak, and flipper), he said “There. You got it. Now just keep it up.” And he was right. That piece, and the ones I turned out after, were some of the best I’ve ever done.
At the end of the quarter, the teacher told us the point of the exercise wasn’t to get really good at drawing our one object; it was to force us through the boring.
When you’re stuck, when you’re sick of routines and doldrums, keep trudging just a little bit further until you’ve exhausted every possibility. Only then, only when your brain is saturated will you make the leap. Once you force your mind past the tedium, you break through into seeing life in new ways, ways you’d never have thought of if you weren’t sick of absolutely everything. You find life beyond the boring.
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