Don't Do It Fast. Do It Awesome.
Last week, my 3-year-old asked me to help him color a picture of Bagheera in his Jungle Book coloring and activity book. Because I was home alone with him and my 1-year-old daughter, and there were dishes in the sink, toys covering the living room floor, and a full basket of dirty clothes, I told him I couldn’t color at the moment. So, he proceeded to color by himself.
A half hour later, once the dishes were dealt with, the toys picked up, and the clothes were in the laundry, he asked again if I would color with him. While getting food ready to feed his baby sister I told him I couldn’t color right now.
Once his sister was fed, and happily redistributing the toys I’d just cleaned up throughout the living room, again my son asked if I’d color with him. I needed to water the garden, take out the recycling and deal with a few other chores, but I felt bad that this would be the third time in less than an hour I’d told him I couldn’t color. So, thinking I’d be doing him a favor, I said, “Okay, buddy. Let’s color something real fast.”
Without looking up, he continued coloring, and with the air of an indignant college professor said, “Don’t do it fast. Do it awesome.”
I stopped everything, and smiled at my bed-wetting sage. Gently, I asked him to repeat what he’d just said to me. He did. And then I said it back to him, only with excitement in my voice. He look up at me, smiled, and fired back, raising the intensity level another notch. I responded in kind. Back and forth we went:
Don’t do it fast. Do it awesome! Don’t do it fast! Do it AWESOME!
DON’T do it FAST! DO it AWESOME! DON’T DO IT FAST! DO IT AWESOME!
While we continued our newfound Artists’ Mantra, my daughter was smiling and clapping as she stumbled toward us in that weird, old-drunken-British-man-who’s-learning-the-Thriller-dance way only babies learning to walk do. I scooped her up, and bounced around the dining room, continuing the chant as my son bobbed in his chair, screaming along with me. Eventually, I put his sister on the ground with a few toys before pulling up a chair next to his.
Truth be told, we didn’t finish the Bagheera picture. We spent the next 20 minutes coloring a couple different pages, because a 3-year-old has the attention span of…well, a 3-year-old.
But, I didn’t care. I knew his words would be with me that night when I sat down to create.
And they were.
“Don’t do it fast. Do it awesome,” I said aloud, before I began writing.
And I have every day since.
I’m well aware of the benefits of creating first drafts as fast as possible. But, “fast” in the art world doesn’t mean the same thing as “fast” in the microwave-vs-oven cooking world. Stephen King is known for completing first drafts fast - which means working 4-8 hours a day for 3-4 months. See what I mean?
Creating takes time. It’s an investment. And, like monetary investments, the more you put in, the more you get out.
Now, when my son asks me to build a castle with Legos, or assemble train tracks, or color, I make sure to invest as much awesome into it as possible. I try to build a castle I’d be willing to show an architect, create a train route worthy of an engineer’s evaluation, and color as if I’m trying to get Jason Brubaker to hire me to work on the next Sithrah book.
I might be wrong, but I believe if I invest awesome into everything I do that “doesn’t matter” I will automatically invest awesome into the things that do. And, since my kids matter more to me than anything else, they deserve every ounce of awesome I’ve got.