Arting Anyway

Long time no blog, I know.  Stuff.  Life.  Death. It happens.

But here’s a thing.  I am not a visual artist.  I appreciate the hell out of the form, but – as I’ve often said – I can’t even draw a straight line if you gave me a ruler and four tries.  But after my attempt to pick up a non-keyboard, non-wording hobby ended in disaster (for the record, knitting is not restful for the wrists), I decided what the hell: it’s not like anyone except me was going to see my results.  And I picked up a sketchpad, and a box of pastels, thinking if nothing else it would be messy like fingerpainting, and I’d feel creative that way, right?

Well, kinda.  I did enjoy messing about with colors, but I didn’t get the pleasure I’d been hoping; I could see everything that was wrong, and nothing that was right, and for a lazy perfectionist like me, having nothing right is a serious buzzkill, even when goofing around.

So the pastels went back in the box, and the sketch pad sat there for a while. Until this past weekend, when on impulse while waiting to meet a friend for dinner, I walked into an art store, drawn by the wall of PENS they had on display.

I’m a writer, PENS are a thing.

And I picked up a pen like nothing I’d ever seen before. A ShinHan “Touch Twin” marker. The clerk behind the counter saw my interest, and came over to extol them.

(It turns out she’d worked in NYC publishing as well, and we had overlapping experiences, but that’s another Small Fucking World post for another time, probably)

So, anyway.  I’m reasonably flat broke, but it happened to be my birthday and whatthehell, they weren’t that expensive.  So I bought four – blue, green, purple, and a “blender” pen.  I figured if nothing else, they’d be fun to sign books with.

And then I came home and didn’t do anything with them for a few days.  Until I started messing around.

You know what?  I still can’t draw – not the way I’d want to.  And not anything remotely good, consistently.  But I wasn’t flinching away, dissatisfied, either.  There was, maybe, even a hint of satisfaction.

And some of the doodles, imo, got Personality.

This isn’t some big thing I’m diving into headfirst.  But the sketchbook and the pens are staying out, and every day or so I sit down and do a single doodle.  Just one, letting my hand decide what it becomes.  Still not an artist.  But I’m arting, anyway.

And you know what?  It feels good.  Not to do something that scared me (we have to do that shit every damn day we adult) but to art, anyway.  Even – maybe especially – in a format I didn’t have expectations of.

Join me?

(and if you follow me on Tumblr (I’m suricattus) look for the hashtag #artinganyway)


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Arting Anyway — 8 Comments

  1. So I’m an artist and I have to say, this is how we all started out, by doing it anyway. 🙂

    Love new art materials! Enjoy.

  2. I’m currently reading The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown, who argues that doodling is natural to us (among many other things). And now I want some of those pens you describe!

  3. Also, you might want to read THE NATURAL WAY TO DRAW by Nicoliades (or something like that.) It really is good for loosening a person up and getting them into drawing better.

  4. One of the things that has surprised me as I’ve been breathing new life into my art career by doing book covers, is that I’m doing what you have described. I’m letting myself doodle. That is to say, there are times when I apply skills I know I have, or times when I follow a set of instructions, but on about every other cover I do, a point arrives when I am just staring at what I’ve got on the screen and I just … try things. I go by instinct. I’ll try five things more or less according to random impulse, and one of the five things will suddenly make the image right in a way I could not have predicted. I think maybe I do this shutting-off-of-control thing with my writing, too, but the spontaneous, right-brain nature of the process isn’t as obvious to me because when I’m writing, the epiphany happens over the course of half an hour or a night or two of sleep, whereas the art thing I’m describing happens in the course of a few minutes.

  5. For years I used to worry that instead of Writing Novels I was knitting/cooking/gardening/painting furniture/doing murals/sewing soft sculpture and all the other things I do. But I have decided that all Creative is connected on the back side. Making is the same act, whatever the tools you use, and whatever the Muse wants to do, go along.