Sometime during my childhood, I acquired the label of “not-artistic”. I don’t know whether it was self-inflicted or given to me by someone else, but soon being “not-[insert adjective]” became an excuse for not stepping out of my comfort zone. I didn’t put any effort into art classes (and dropped them as soon as I could) because I was “not-artistic”. I didn’t try out for a sports team because I was “not-athletic”. The “not-this-or-that” label became a self-defense mechanism–a defense against setting myself up for failure, or worse, making a fool of myself in front of, like, everyone.
As I was doing crafts with my kids the other day, it occurred to me that kids take risks all the time. They are born knowing virtually nothing, except for ‘I need that liquid life mommy milk goodness!” and ‘I hate being wet/poopy/too cold/too hot/put down/hungry”. They have to acquire skills like sitting up, holding onto things, walking. They have to learn how to say “construction vehicles”, learn how to use a pencil or hold scissors, feed themselves without ending up with their dinners down their shirts. They have an innate lack of fear and a lack of caring about what other people may think; whether or not they may get hurt or however much their parents may giggle over seeing them plop onto their bottoms, they will learn to walk and climb and run and jump. They will learn to say “something” instead of “somefing”, they will learn to write and draw and read.
Now lack of fear and not caring what other people think of you are not virtues in and of themselves (heaven knows that I wish sometimes my kids would display a healthy fear of falling or care about not embarrassing me and themselves by throwing a fit in the middle of the store), but for someone like me who is over-cautious and cares entirely too much about appearing the fool, it is a good reminder that without risk, there is little growth and no improvement. Having kids has loosened me up in many good ways (and probably many bad ways–I am entirely too eager to swap childbirth stories, heh) and accepting risk and learning to not take myself too seriously are two of them.
So, I’m going to challenge myself to break free from the safe and comfortable and known and venture into some new territory. And have fun doing so. I’m going to call it my Week-Month-Year Challenge and yeah, it’s a silly name, but it’s almost 11 pm and it fits.
So here’s my challenge to myself:
In one week, I’m going to write what Holly Lisle calls a “candybar scene” from this science fiction romance story I’ve been kicking around for years but never had the guts to write. It’ll probably be a romantic scene which makes me blush and squirm a little to even confess but there you have it. We’re on a train, leaving Comfortsville.
In one month, I’m going to create a nice big collage. I’m always doing crafts with/for the kids, and dangit, I want to do one all by myself. Maybe having my own art project will keep me from micromanaging the kids’.
In one year, I’m going to work through Drawing with Children and take a drawing class and post up some of my work on this blog, for the viewing pleasure of the whole world (or at least the part of it that is online). Wow, I can’t even see the skyline of Comfortsville from here anymore! Anyone got snacks to share?
I invite you to join me in this madness. Challenge yourselves. If you’re a geeky computer-programmer-type guy (*waves*), write a love sonnet to your wife. If you take really great photographs (no, I’m not pointing fingers at anyone–what makes you think that?), do a sketch of one of your subjects. If you make really cool crafts from old jeans… well, you’re way ahead of me there, so, um, make some more really cool crafts from old jeans.
Keep an eye on this space for updates on how my challenges are going.