Nibby Sunday – In Search of the Childlike Joy of Drawing

Nibby Sunday – In Search of the Childlike Joy of Drawing

When we were kids, most of us enjoyed drawing. We weren’t necessarily very good at it, but that didn’t matter, because the joy was in the drawing itself, using one’s imagination. We hadn’t yet developed a critical sense that would tell us that what we made wasn’t good. We just had fun with it.

This is something that the vast majority of us lose as we grow up. The joy of creating something, instead of the joy (or possibly the frustration) of what you have created. The process is much more important than the result. Everything we do does not have to be a pursuit of achievement. It’s okay to do things just because we think it’s fun, without the life-and-death need or ambition to become good at it. The choir and windband movements (at least here in Norway) are really good at creating such environments: it is more important to meet once a week, be social and make music together, than that the music necessarily needs to be at a sky-high level. It is the joy of playing that is paramount, not the final piece of music.

When you ask a child to draw a dinosaur, they just do it. The result may not look like a dinosaur at all, but in the artist’s eyes and head it is at least a visual representation of a dinosaur. If you ask an adult to draw a dinosaur, in most cases they will probably say that they can’t draw, or that it’s gonna be really bad, or that they don’t know what a dinosaur looks like. There will be all kinds of excuses. And if you actually get them to draw the dinosaur, they will also complain about how bad they think the drawing is, whereas a child will proudly show off their drawing regardless of how much it actually resembles a dinosaur or not.

An example of a tyrannosaur, as a child – or in this case man (38) – could draw it. Quite two-dimensional, and taken straight from my own head, instead of looking at any image references.

For several years now I have been searching for this uncritical, childlike joy. Why are we losing it? And how can we find it again?

What I have found is that you just have to make up your mind. You have to find an activity where you make it a point that it should only be for your enjoyment, and not performance-based. You should do this activity only because it’s fun, and if it’s not fun, you’re doing it wrong.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to perform. It’s just that it’s not the performance itself that should be the most important thing. Go to band practice with the expectation of having fun interacting with others, not with the expectation that you and the rest of the band will sound like a professional ensemble. Join National Novel Writing Month and enjoy taking a deep-dive into your own imagination, not with the goal of publishing the next great novel. Draw something because it’s fun to create, not with an ambition to be accepted to a gallery. Let the result be what it is.

Rediscover the childlike joy of creation that you surely once had. Creativity and imagination: these are skills that can be trained and that must be maintained over time if you don’t want them to disappear. The good thing, though, is that these skills can be really fun to practice!

Drawing number 2 of a tyrannosaur. This one is also without any image references, but here I did the best I could from my own head. I attempted to make it more three-dimensional than the slightly hieroglyphic drawing further up. I quickly discovered, however, that I had absolutely no idea what a T-rex actually looked like…

For me, NaNoWriMo is a good example of things I do where I really don’t care about the quality of the end result. I just want to have fun along the way. That is much more important than striving to write something that might get published after a few rounds of revision. It’s not that important to me. It is more important to have novel writing as a leisure activity without the pressure of expectations and the rush to achieve. I get enough of that through the bands I play in, this blog, freelance gigs I take on as a musician, and not least the job I do during the day.

Turning off self-criticism gives you enormous freedom in what you do. You can do anything, as long as it doesn’t have to be good. In that way, deliberately doing something bad can help build self-confidence. And this has a self-reinforcing effect. Eventually, you may discover that you have actually become quite skilled at this thing you initially did just for fun. Because if you enjoy doing something, you will also do it often, and as they say: practice makes perfect.

Drawing number 3. Here I finally used a picture reference, and did my best to imitate it. The result was much better, but on the other hand this is no longer an original work. It’s basically plagiarism, and it honestly feels like the other two drawings have more personality, although this one is technically better.

So my advice to anyone reading this is to do something you’re not particularly skilled at, just for the fun of it, and don’t care that you’re not good at it. Just enjoy, and look for that childlike glee, without thinking about the result, whether it’s writing, drawing, making music, or something else entirely. If you do that, the creativity will also come naturally, because you no longer have this little gnome sitting in your head telling you that “no, this won’t be good”, or “do something you know instead”. Screw him! Focus on the possibilities, not the limitations! Pippi Longstocking said that “I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that”. This is not necessarily good advice in a professional context, but on a hobby basis it is a mantra that perhaps more people should adhere to.

If you are not satisfied with the result, you can at least be proud that you actually completed it, whether it is a drawing, a concert or writing a novel in a month.

A good pen or pencil is a good place to start. Write or draw just because you like putting ink on paper. Don’t worry too much about how it will look. Just let it flow. Enjoy the activity, but don’t worry about the result.

I’m taking a little break from the blog for the next two Sundays, in connection with the Easter holidays, but I’ll be back with new Nibby Sunday posts from April 7. Until then, I wish everyone a happy Easter!

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