I’m writing a book.
Yes, I’m as surprised as you are. I see now why, for the past two months, I have written so many blog posts about staying grounded, finding equanimity with outside distractions, and not letting your lists over-ride your heart. Well here’s the reason: that whole time I have been working on the rough draft of my first published book.
The subject of the book is simple enough, and I foolishly thought I had already written most of it because it is a print version of the ‘Sketchbook Adventure’ art classes I taught for three years here in Concord. It turns out, a lesson plan is merely an outline of the stand-up comedy act that teaching has to be at times. I had a lot of writing and illustrating ahead of me.
It’s funny, in 2017 I went looking for a specific kind of art class to take, and I couldn’t find it anywhere near where I live. My guardian angel (or something) whispered, “You know, you could just teach that class instead…” And now, three years later, when I don’t want those lesson plans to die on my hard drive, that sneaky angel whispered again, “You know, you could just turn it into a booklet or something…”
I don’t think I am the most brilliant writer or best artist, far from it. But I just may be the person to deliver the loudest, most heartfelt “Look at that!” message. I want others to be as amazed as I am by the miracle of eyesight. Sketching (the way I teach it) is a way to slow down time, breathe more deeply, stop taking ourselves so seriously, at least for a moment, and be amazed at the gorgeous world in which we all live, regardless of where we live. As a side effect of this pausing, breathing, and ‘note-taking’ called sketching, we end up with squiggly lines on the paper of our sketchbooks. Those lines please us, not because they are perfect, but because they are the record of a very pleasant pause.
A peek into my world
I always have a little notebook and at least one pen with me in my purse. When I’m sitting in a doctor’s waiting room or at a sidewalk cafe killing time until my next appointment, I look around and I see that most people are on their smartphones, flipping through Facebook, possibly reading a book on Kindle, enjoying themselves, but in truth their focal distance is about 10 inches and covers a surface area of about 3 inches by 6 inches. That’s only 0.104 cubic feet, a pretty small world for anyone to live inside.
What I do instead, after I have looked at all those poor souls, is pull out my skimpy little notebook and pen, and look around. My method is simple: I draw whatever grabs my attention because after all, anything worth seeing is worth sketching, right? The way you know something has grabbed your attention is that your glance is interrupted by an unexpected double-take: you look twice and may not even know why. It doesn’t matter, you now have your subject matter (preferably an inanimate object and not the fidgety person sitting across from you!).
That’s what my book is about. It starts with a welcome, continues on with a dead-simple supply list, warm-up exercises so you can get to know your supplies better, and then we go outside together. There I show you how I approach sketching as a way of focusing your seeing, rather than as a way to put marks on a piece of paper. (The last thing we want is to trigger every insecure, self-conscious thought you ever had about drawing pictures!) What I’m interested in is helping people to see better, to fall in love with the fact that they can see at all. If you spend enough time looking, seeing, and ‘taking notes,’ it’s funny how your drawing abilities improve automatically.
I made another discovery in the last week or so as I dove into the gigantic learning curve of self-publishing: I love being a student. I realized yet again that if I go for very long without studying something or other, I’m at risk of grumpiness. Hungry minds unite!
Sketching gives me a chance to fidget from the wrist down when I need to calm my overactive brain. It really doesn’t matter what ends up on the page, what matters is what falls into my heart. I fall in love with seeing, with being alive and fully present. The shift is delightful.
The book should be ready by the end of November and will be available in paperback as well as eBook on Amazon. Who knows what might happen after launch day. I might create a Sketchbook Adventure Club that meets on Facebook Live now and again, so I can share the excitement of seeing/drawing with like-minded wonderful people like you.
If you’d like to get on my mailing list, please send me a note through the ‘Contact Me’ tab on this website and include your email. That way you will be among the first to know when the book is released.
Thanks to all of you who have supported me through the four years this blog has been going, and remember:
When in doubt, stop, look, listen, and grab a pen.