Last night I got an aviation lesson, a hands-on practicum in the art of flying by the seat of my pants. I was not trained at SeaTac airport. Instead, I took the instruction at a Toastmasters meeting. This club is a lovely thing, an organization based on improving public speaking skills in a socially supportive setting. It works for those who are afraid to make even the tiniest audible peep—which is not me—and for those who would like to become better at skills they already have. I am always working on improving my speaking, and the group helps me a lot. We support each other in mutual progress.
Yesterday evening our Toastmaster fell ill. It was his job to act as a master of ceremonies, to run the whole show. The Toastmaster also provides entertaining filler in between the speakers and other events of the meeting. With two hours notice I was assigned the job. My improvised theme was “flying by the seat of your pants,” a term which comes from the early days of aviation when pilots had to rely more on their wits than instrumentation. I had fun, and it made me think about ways that I’ve been introducing more of this improvisational feeling into my daily writing and art practices.
I’ve recently taken up visual journaling and am drawing every day in a blank book. I am using disposable technical pens for these forays onto paper. This is scary but exhilarating. I want to get things perfect, and I can do that if I use pencils. I can erase and redraw as many times as I need to get the angle of each line just right. In pen I’ve got one shot—if I put a person’s nose in the wrong place it stays there. This has been great for me, because I am learning to look more carefully before I place the first line. I’ve also learned to enjoy the wobbly imperfections that come about as I commit unpremeditated art. There’s a lot of imperfections to appreciate.
Spontaneous writing exercises are also a great way to keep flexible. I’ll tell you more about that Friday. Tomorrow will be something else entirely. Curious? Come back and see me!
Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
24. Take out a pen and draw something in your immediate surroundings. Do not erase. Honor the imperfections in your little masterpiece.