Getting over perfection

Henry really, really doesn't like to make mistakes. His teachers tell us how carefully he writes, pausing to put a finger between each word to make sure they're evenly spaced. His handwriting is impeccable and his spelling is flawless. He's not finishing any assignments, however, because he's too busy erasing every stray errant line.

I have no idea where he gets that from. (From where he gets that.) No idea.

I've been trying to model anti-perfectionism to him, but it's difficult. I'm not good at being comfortable with mistakes, and I hate doing anything I'm not good at. You see how much of a challenge this presents.

One of the activities Henry always wants to share with me is drawing. I like to draw. I'm a decent artist. With one important catch: I have to be looking at the thing I'm drawing. I mean, I have to. If I can see it, I do okay. Here I am in Paris, sketching a statue. Kind of poorly, in this case, because Scott was taking pictures over my shoulder and I froze.

Nope, I'm just sketching in peace. Can't tell a thing.

If, however, you ask me to draw something from memory, like a dog? Or Scott? Or a ham sandwich? Well, here you go:


All right, not really. But close!

I apparently have no visual memory, because I can't even conjure up an image of one of those things. I get bits and pieces, but they won't come together. I'm pretty sure I've been hit on the head one too many times.

So when Henry and I draw together, I look around and draw whatever I see. This annoys Henry to no end. He wants me to draw something he can incorporate into a story, and how, pray tell, is an eight-year-old boy going to write a comic book using a lovely sketch of a vase and bowl of oranges? No, I have to draw a rabid cougar, or a Civil War soldier riding a farting unicorn. Obviously.

And that's when I hyperventilate. Even if no one else will see the drawing, I resist. I immediately start in. I tell him I can't. I tell him I don't know how. I tell him not to listen to anything I say and to be brave and fearless and not worry about mistakes, and then I shout "look over there!" and when he turns his head I leap out the window.

Henry's teachers told me that they gave him a pen for his writing assignments, so that he couldn't do any more erasing. "I told him something I've never told any of my other students, ever," one of his teachers said. "I told him to be sloppy."

So yesterday I bought a sketch pad, and I got out my Flair pen, and I intend to fill every page of that pad with terrible, terrible drawings. With whatever scrawls I can manage of a dog or a boat, or whatever. I'll even show them to Henry. Hell, maybe I'll even show some of them to you. Because if I want to convince Henry that making mistakes--even being terrible at something--doesn't matter as much as doing it, I'm going to have to follow my own example.

I'm surprised at how much this scares me, which almost certainly indicates that I should do it.