Where we poke fun at one fine fallacy that keeps us from enjoying our full potential, because we don’t know any better.
“I can’t … “
You can put just about anything after those two words… I can’t draw. I can’t swim. I can’t write. I can’t fly. I can’t drive a manual stick shift. I can’t roller skate. I can’t juggle wombats.
I don’t know when we first pick up that phrase, but I imagine for most of us it was pretty early on. And those things we learn early on are hard to shake, too. Like shyness, or comic books, or an aversion to broccoli.
I remember as early as kindergarten, there was already that peer pressure to compare our creative work with the work of others. We look over and notice the next kid’s finger-painting has a nuance ours can barely aspire to. And that little girl can stack blocks in a more collinear fashion than seems natural.
The embarrassment at such a young age, when adults expect so much of us, like remembering the order of words, or this staying vertical on two too tiny feets thing. It’s simply so much easier to sit down, stick our lip out, and give up on the whole idea to save ourselves further embarrassment.
“I can’t,” we say. I wonder who taught us those words?
Well meaning (or clueless) teachers or parents might tut-tut and simply agree with us, offering thoroughly unhelpful comforts, like “I guess your sister got all the talent for that in the family,” or “you’ll never make a living doing that anyway,” or “I’ll never get that paint off the cat.”
Actually, I think I heard the middle one later on, regarding something I could do… never mind.
Perhaps we gave it a really good try, but the right mentor wasn’t handy at that moment to ease us over the one tiny bump to “I can”. Perhaps we were on our way there, but some jealous person decided to insult our efforts at a sensitive moment. Perhaps we simply lost our patience.
And “I can’t” was ready.
I know, I’ve been there. In fact, to illustrate my point, I thought I’d publicly pick on a person who has claimed her whole life that she can’t draw.
“All my people look like stick figures,” she’d say, completely ignoring the popularity of XKCD, or the guy who trained Matt Murdock. No, wait…
I won’t name any names here, but– Okay, it’s me! Are you satisfied?! And I can’t draw! [pause for Non-drawers Anonymous greeting] “I’m a writer,” I say. “I don’t need to draw stuff” [sits down dejectedly.]
Then one day I write this cute short animated script about a boy and his dog, and some strange piranha, and a girl in a box… It’s a kind of an apocalyptic love story. You know the kind.
It had workshopped really well and I was getting excited to see it made into a PIXAR-like short… when I realized I don’t know how to make that process happen. I don’t know any animators, and we’ve already established I can’t draw.
My palette is a keyboard; my canvas a text editor.
Still, if I could somehow get someone interested, I thought naively, the cute story wouldn’t go to waste.
So I went looking for ways to get the project some attention. Actually, I’m still looking. But along the way, I fell across The Storyboard. I was intrigued by the rough sketches, used by the best directors and animators to plan a movie or an animated film.
I noticed that most of them looked all scribbly and stuff … so, perhaps even I could … no. Well, maybe.
Wanna See Something Pathetic?
(I knew you would. Sadists.)
So I tried my hand at this thing. I bought a sketchbook at the Dollar Store for a buck, because that’s how much I thought this venture would be worth. I drew a horizontal line halving all 50 pages of it in ink. And then I got to scribbling.
As predicted, I ended up with round-headed stick figures on squirrely bits of scenery (I’m okay doing buildings and stuff), like this one:
I know, right? Ugh~!
Oh, the derision and laughter I endured. (I can be pretty awful, to myself.)
But then I thought, I’ve gone this far, I should “stick” it out … (hehe). In the end, it would take just about all 50 pages (100 panels) to cover the entire story.
And Then Something Happened
Let me back up ten panels…
One day, around panel #90 or so, I began to notice something weird happening: Somewhere along the way my characters’ heads stopped being Charlie-Brown-round. They started looking human, with expressions and stuff.
I flipped back and realized, against all odds, I had drawn the same thing so often–badly–that my fingers had slowly rebelled, and through muscle memory or some other magical hokum, they began to draw things more better. More real. More cute. More like the way I saw it in my head:
Okay, not phenomenally better, I admit. But enough to make me realize I needed to go back and re-draw all of the round-heads to match the later ones. Once I got over the shock.
Somehow, through practice or patience, I had taken my first humble step towards The Impossible: I felt I was drawing!
So, I’m currently redrawing a lot of panels for consistency, noticing my background settings had improved, too. I’m still not sure where to find an interested animator who wants to bag a cute apocalyptic short–with piranha–for their demo reel, but at least I’ll be prepared if I ever fall in a pond with them (the animator, not the piranha–I hope).
There’s a moral to this story somewhere . . . Oh, yeah:
If you think you can’t do something, something you feel you might actually enjoy doing? Try it. Try a bunch of times. Maybe 100. Be easy on yourself, use cheap materials, be messy (fuck perfection), do small things–a lot. Just do it for fun.
Eventually you will see: You are awesome at whatever you practice. Practice doesn’t really make perfect, practice makes it happen.
And I believe in you! ^_^
P.S., if you’re an animator and curious? I’m planning on sharing the storyboards as an exclusive on my Patreon page soon. And/or the script. I’m still figuring out what people want to see there. ^_^