Today we welcome back regular guestblogger Dave Baldwin with his review on Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards. Enjoy!
Do you think you can’t write? Do you think you can’t dance? Do you think you can’t paint? Do you look at the work of great artists and wish that you’d been “born with that kind of talent?” Are you willing to consider that the artistic world may be closer within your reach than you might realize? If you’re ready to suspend disbelief for a week or so, Betty Edwards’ self-study course will cast aside your preconceived notions about artists (and your reasons why you believe you can’t be one).
I went through the Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain course in 2000, shortly after I realized that I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was working the evening shift in a factory, and I knew that I was slated for layoff within the next few months. I dreaded “going back out there” to the job market, but at the same time, I looked forward to leaving the dull gray box-shaped environment that had been slowly bleeding my soul dry. I wanted to do something creative for a living, but I didn’t think I had it in me.
The first exercise in Edwards’ course stunned me. I drew an upside-down picture of a knight on horseback, and the accuracy of my own freehand work surpassed anything I’d ever drawn in my life. What surprised me the most was the sheer simplicity of the instructions and the steps involved. I realized that it wasn’t a lack of talent that had halted my artistic development. I had just never learned how to shift my brain into what Edwards dubs “R-mode,” or the creative mode of thinking. If that sounds difficult, I can relate. It sounded difficult to me, too, until Betty Edwards showed me how easy it was.
Doing the exercises in Edwards’ book resembled the thrill of staying upright on a bicycle without training wheels for the first time. Like riding a bike, shifting into “R-mode” just requires a little bit of practice, and it’s impossible to explain directly. Once I experienced it, I couldn’t believe how simple it was. I also found it more than a little bit addictive. While I never pursued drawing seriously, my discovery of “R-mode” led me to re-energize my creative writing practice. During the next few years, I felt my latent passion for writing beginning to re-awaken. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was the initial catalyst that set this process in motion.
In 2006, my friend Julie taught me how to paint with acrylics. When she initially made the offer to teach me, I remember feeling a twinge of resistance, followed by the thought, “What if I just can’t paint?” Then, I thought back to Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and reminded myself that I probably just hadn’t learned how. As I put the final brush stroke to my first painting, I had proved once again that Edwards was right.
Eventually, I developed the confidence to pursue writing full-time in 2007. When I left my job, I soon began to doubt whether I was capable of being an entrepreneur. However, this self-doubt was quickly displaced by a certainty that I just needed to learn the skill. This process has become natural, to the point where I almost take it for granted. I never say, “I’m terrible at…” I just think, “What skill do I need that I’ve never learned?”
Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain was one of the experiences that inspired me to write Get That Book Out of Your Head! in 2009. I found that most people who struggled with writing had bought into the idea that writing is an inborn talent gifted to only a select few. While I do believe that the desire to write seems to have evaded some people, the gift of creative writing is open to anyone willing to learn some basic skills and practice them regularly. I thought back to Edwards’ course and decided that helping people explore the world of writing was part of my greater purpose.
If you’re struggling with an art form of any kind, I would recommend this course. Even if you have no interest in drawing particularly, the experience of learning to see the world like an artist will prove invaluable for your artistic development.
Please comment here if you have read the book and would like to share your experience!
Dave Baldwin is a writer who has lived and worked in Raleigh, NC since 2007. He has self-published two books: Pied Piper Entrepreneurship (2009) and Get That Book Out of Your Head! (2009).