Between a Rock and Hard Place (aka Being in the Zone)

That moment when everything flows, everything works, it feels effortless and the results, when you stop, surprise you. That Zone of Creativity, ever-elusive, ever-desirable.

I don’t have a fool-proof recipe for how to get “in the zone”. I do, however, know how to guarantee that I won’t, and that’s by desperately wanting to and trying too hard. The harder I try, the more I second-guess what I’m doing, and things go from bad to worse to dire.

It’s only by thinking less about the overall outcome, by worrying less about whether something is right or wrong, by allowing myself to trust that I’ll be able to fix mistakes as they happen and work through and over them, by not stressing about ‘wasting’ materials and time if I don’t because I can start again, make another attempt, that I begin to create the conditions for being in the zone. (And, yes, that is a ridiculously long sentence; welcome to the inside of my head.)

sketching rocks on Skye

A pristine new page in a sketchbook holds so many hopes and possibilities. The moment you make the first mark, you’ve narrowed those. But if it becomes dissatisfactory, you simply turn the page and start again.

ink sketching rocks on Skye

With the ink drawing I did this time, it flowed right from the start. It felt effortless doing it; I was delighted with the result. But it wasn’t the first sketch of the day, it was the second. And the day before I’d also been sketching at this location (see photos). I swapped from pencil to ink, I narrowed my focus to a specific element that fits with line, and I’d just munched some ginger biscuits with a warming cup of peppermint tea. Which of these was the magic ingredient? All and none.

ink sketching rocks on Skye

My intention was to capture a sense of the rock, the solid slab and the vertical cracks. I started on the left, and did it by looking at a specific point, drawing until the ink ran out, then dipped the pippette back in the bottle, focused on a new bit of rock and drew again. I didn’t worry about exactly where I stopped and starting, I wasn’t trying to get an exact representation of the rock, so it didn’t matter if I skipped a bit or made them the wrong size or shape. Ultimately the drawing stands alone, not in comparison with its source.

ink sketching rocks on Skye

I was thrilled with it. Now the question becomes: what will happen the next time I try to draw on this location? To Infinity and Beyond!

One Reply to “Between a Rock and Hard Place (aka Being in the Zone)”

  1. Beautifully written and well executed. I feel a rhythm to this piece, far from any repetition, it’s like a musical jam session with just the right notes. I feel a dance.

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