Make Something: Timed Drawing

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.

I began.

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.


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