Today Noah Scalin challenged me to draw for 30 minutes straight.
Maybe now I understand a bit better how my business writing students feel when I subject them to timed writing exercises.
“Write a haiku. You have three minutes.”
“Write in as much detail as you can about your first workplace. You have seven minutes.”
Usually, when I make these challenges, we are captive together in a classroom. The students cannot run or hide or really even stall. They just have to generate an idea, put pen to paper, and get words on a page.
Since Noah wasn’t in my family room, I seized the opportunity to procrastinate. Truly, I’ve had all day to produce a drawing. Can you imagine how many other things I accomplished first? Not only did I go to yoga (something I rarely fit into our Sunday schedule), I walked the track while listening to an audiobook. I read. Answered email. Rearranged furniture. Napped. Read some more. Wiped counters. Enjoyed a delicious dinner with my husband.
Just when I feared I had run out of alternative activities, I realized I could kill more time by gathering supplies. A cup of tea, a bottle of water, and a glass of wine (just in case my tastes changed). The perfect drawing notebook. Several pens. A couple favorite pencils—both of which needed sharpening. An eraser. The timer app on my iPhone, set to buzz in 30 minutes.
At last, everything was in place. No more excuses.
Practicing the techniques I’ve learned from a few Zentangle books, I doodled and adorned the page. The Golden Globes came on TV, and I sketched to the comedy of Tina Fey and Amy Pohler.
And then the timer went off.
I was nowhere near “finished” filling my page. I wasn’t bored or frustrated or struggling or searching for inspiration. I was in a groove.
It’s a relief, really. Because now I know for sure that what I tell my students is true: If you can just begin the work, there really is no need to worry about how you will finish it. Just go.