The ability to try is directly proportional to the mental fortitude of the tryer, and mental fortitude is made possible only by encouragement. Whether that encouragement is self-made or externally-derived is a semantic question, really. It’s not like it’s entirely self-created; we need some encouragement, at some point, to feel like we can do it, and we need some personal chutzpah to get the external encouragement.

I suppose my first attempt to paint was self-created. I wanted to learn, but I didn’t want to have to work at it. I painted, and it was terrible. What else can you expect from an amateur? Rather than a person on a bridge, it was more a blob on a blob.

I took classes to try to improve. My first painting class involved the teacher telling us how we needed to know how to draw. Makes sense, I suppose. But I’m not much of a drawer, and never have been. Besides, all the stories of the people who can overcome odds without having to do things as someone says they should be done had made me feel like I could do the same. So I tried.

Again, blobs on blobs.

So I took a drawing class. My first sketches were graphite lines on blobs. But soon I came to have circles on circles, and circles on sticks. Then carrots on chopping boards. Then, finally, I had a person. And that person stood on a bridge.

Eventually my androgynous person became a woman, and the bridge over blackness became a bridge over water. She was even able to smile, though the hours that took are more than I’d care to say.

When I finally returned to painting, it was a disaster. Drawing will only get you so far, of course, so I gave up painting. I returned to just drawing, knowing which battles I would won, and which I couldn’t. I drew and drew, refining and improving and bettering. Finally, it was what I wanted, and I framed it, and took it to her.

The laughter was the worst part. She said it was a comic, a caricature. Ridiculous, and nice of me to try.

I put my pencils down, then. One can only go so long on their own.


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