Friday, 16 May 2014

Of Pipe-dreams and Practice

Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about attending Savannah College of Art and Design (or SCAD for short). I’ve always wanted to go to art school, ever since I started doing art for my A-levels. I love to draw and I’d love to study at a place solely dedicated to drawing. The thing is though that it’s a bit of a long shot. Not only is there the whole applying and hoping that my art is good enough (which I doubt but we’ll get to that shortly) thing, but there is also the matter of the cost. The total fees for just one year of study are more than I owe in student loans, which is a butt load. It’s an amount that I have very little hope of ever saving up although I’m not doing too badly with savings. I’d feel bad, spending that much on further education, especially four years worth of education, when there are so many other things I could and should spend it on. Like a house, or paying off my student loans, or any number of other things that I can’t think of right now. There’s a very low possibility of me ever earning enough to afford it and as each year passes, despite the desire to attend still being there, the likelihood falls lower and lower. In a nutshell, it’s a pipe dream.

Then there’s the matter of my ability in general. I love drawing but I don’t draw enough. One of the reasons is that I can never get what I’m seeing in my mind down on paper properly. And there is one key reason for this. Practice. I do not practice drawing. I seem to expect it to instantly come out perfect, exactly how I want it to without trying. Sometimes I wish there was a magical print button that simply put what was in my head down on paper without me even trying. But that is wrong. I need to practice, I should practice. Practice is what helps you get better. It has worked with my writing, the more that I write the better that my writing becomes (or at least it seems to at any rate, I’ll let someone else be the judge of that). So I came to a decision.

Just because I can’t go to art school doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to get better. Just like with my writing I need to figure out some form of programme of study to improve my drawing ability, to get it to where I want to be. I’ll need to look at the various syllabi of art colleges around the world, see how they build up their teaching over time and figure out my own version based on that. More importantly I need to get over the idea that everything I draw will be perfect straight away. It is going to be flawed, there are going to be glaring errors and when I look back at those drawings I am going to hate them. But that’s what improvement is all about. Practice makes perfect is a cliché saying for a reason, it’s true. To an extent anyway.

I think that’s what a lot of first time writers don’t realise. You cannot just expect things to come out exactly how you want them to right from the beginning (unless you’re a crazy genius savant or incredibly gifted). You have to work for them, learn about them, practice them and all the time you’ll get better. It’s the 10,000 hour rule, the idea that in order to consider yourself a master, or at least adept, at your craft you need to put in at least 10,000 hours of work before you are seriously any good. I don’t say this to put people off trying to write. I’m just stating a fact. Sure you can put a book out there, paint a picture or play an instrument without the 10,000 hours but it won’t be as good as it could be if you put those 10,000 hours in.

That’s the wonderful thing about life though. You don’t get a one shot only kind of thing. You can try and fail and try and fail as many times as you want. No one looks down on someone for trying, as long as they keep the rest of their life in some form of order (ie paying bills and not becoming a drug addicted mess). You have to strike on, keep going. Refusing to give up on your dream can earn you a lot of respect (unless it’s a crazy dream like living on the moon. Then you need to rethink) and show your loved ones, particularly the ones who are doubting you, exactly how determined you are. In fact it could earn you a lot of support from places you least expected it. And if the failures keep coming maybe it’s time to practice a little more, study a little more and learn from the successes out there.

So I return to practicing my craft, practicing writing and practicing my art. Once I know how to art that is. It’s been a while since I had any kind of formal training so my brain’s a little dusty. And maybe one day soon, I will get to go to SCAD and be an art student. Or I might finally get a book out there, a whole series of books, and people will know my name. But at the moment I’m focusing on the now and less on the future.

What are your big dreams? How do you practice for your dream? Let me know in the comments.

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