In an earlier post of mine, I discussed the difficulty many of us come to face at some point or another during our creative process. It’s the paradox of the Plain White Piece of Paper. I was sitting in church next to my daughter this last Sunday when she hands me a pencil and said plain white piece of paper.
“Draw,” she insists.
I stared at the paper. In fact, I stared at it for quite a while and nothing came to me. She was already off and scribbling away in her own little sketch pad she brings every week. About every three minutes, she glances over and gives me a look of disappointment, as if some kind of masterpiece was expected to be unveiling itself as the meeting progressed. I suppose I could have refused, insisting that I was duly engrossed in the sermon being delivered over the pulpit. But that would be an untruth, and we all know where one goes when one lies–while sitting in a pew at church, no less. I must confess that I did want something marvelous to reveal itself out of the tip of the pencil. But alas, nothing came. So I did what I do whenever I struggle to come up with something.
I close my eyes.
I put the pencil tip on the paper.
And then I let my hand wander.
What ends up happening is a nest of lines appearing on the paper that I have no idea what they’ll become until I open my eyes again. There’s no intention, no preplanned end result. Just pure line and the invitation to see beyond the marks on the paper to find something within them.
This is an exercise I offer not only to those who struggle to start something, but to those who feel they don’t have a thread of creativity in them. What I love about the exercise is that it doesn’t have to lead to anything. It simply gets the juices flowing and usually puts a smile on your face when you’re done because you’ve made something–pretty much out of nothing.
It would have perhaps been entertaining to catch this sketch on video to see the scribbling morph into the final little creature doodle, but I think it might have caused a stir in the chapel and so all I could bring myself to do was take a handful of discreet snapshots with my phone as I went along. I won’t even claim that the drawing ended up great, but it pleased my daughter and that was the original goal. My daughter’s creation, on the other hand, I found nothing short of inspiring.