Big Erasers


Last night, my youngest daughter came to me frustrated by something she was trying to draw. Irritated, she handed me the blue pen and the paper she had been working with. “fix it.” She cried. ” It isn’t working.” She had toiled with it past the point of polite requests or wanting an art lesson. She just wanted a magic wand waved over her picture and have it miraculously turn into the image of the raft floating on the lake that she saw so clearly in her mind.

I looked up at her from my writing. “You did it in pen, we can’t change it.” I stated.

“Go bring me the art pencils and we can do one together, one we can work out the details, fix the mistakes.” She went off, unhappy about it, but returned a moment later, pencils in hand.

“I don’t see why I need to use a pencil.” She grumbled. As we began to work, the problem became very clear. I sketched and asked questions, drawing out from her mind what it was she was trying to achieve. I put a mark down on the paper. “Nooo, that’s wrong…it wasn’t like that.”

“Honey, that’s what we have the eraser for.” I patiently erased the mark, ready to put down a new one a little farther over.

“But I don’t want to have to ERASE, I want it to be PERFECT.” She was getting distressed. “It will be wrong!!”

“Honey, ” I glanced over at the clock, knowing bed time needed to happen very soon. “That’s what they MADE erasers for. NOTHING is perfect right away. You have to work on it. You have to be willing to make mistakes or you aren’t going to get anywhere.” I blew out a breath of exasperation.

We ended the drawing session. She was too tired, I was too impatient. Some things are better left for other times.

I tried to go back to my writing but the moment had been broken. I thought about all the times in my life I had been just as frustrated because I couldn’t do it perfect the first time. How many times I had given in to irritation because I couldn’t *start in pen* and never have to worry about making a mistake. How many times I felt less than talented if I had to take out the eraser and start over or go back and redo something.

My daughter doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

This morning, in my quiet reading time, I opened randomly to a page from The Sound of Paper, by Julia Cameron. My eyes lit on to the following words.

Teachers are everywhere when we are open to them.

But we cannot learn everything at once. We must first learn progress not perfection. Too often, we measure our early creative attempts against the masterworks of accomplished artists. Falling short, we become discouraged. We have not witnessed their learning curve. We have seen the Godfather trilogy, not Coppola’s beginning films. In our imagination, the early works of accomplished artists must be marked by genius. It isn’t always so. Art is a combination of talent and character, and many times the artists who win do so because of their stubbornness. They refuse to take no for an answer.

Talent, character, stubbornness and…I would add- a willingness to fail, be wrong, learn from mistakes and go on. Make the next mark better, the next words brighter, the next experience more brilliant. What is true in art is true in life as well.

Thank God for big erasers. Thank God I don’t have to live my life in pen.

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14 thoughts on “Big Erasers

  1. I used to be like your daughter. Most of the time I still am. I want everything I do to be perfect on the first try, but I don’t want to do the work or practice.

    I was in an advanced math class in grade school — and I was dyslexic — where we weren’t allowed to use pencils or calculators. The teacher wanted to see all our mistakes. I remember thinking it was stupid. I remember cheating, doing my homework on a separate page and then faking mistakes here and there so I wouldn’t look too perfect, but not as imperfect as I really was. I don’t remember how to do complicated fractions, or algebra, or anything else I learned in sixth grade. But I do remember learning an important lesson: make the mistakes the way they’re supposed to be made, or you’ll be cheating yourself more than you’ll cheat the teacher. Had she seen my mistakes, someone might have been able to diagnose my problem before I eventually became a straight A drop out in high school.

  2. Amy,

    honestly, except for a few things, I swear we could be twins…

    I couldn’t DO the math homework by the time I got to long division and long multiplication because I couldn’t keep the numbers lined up in rows and therefore couldn’t add, subtract or divide anything. I started hiding all of it because I didn’t want anyone to know. As soon as math was no longer a mandatory class, I switched it out for more writing and history and art and language classes and left math behind. I was able to b a straight A student without anyone figuring it out,. You are the only other straight A drop out besides me I have ever met, but I am willing to bet there are more of us out there. I was an adult before anyone told me the reason I was like that was because of dyslexia. By then I had gotten by my whole life. They are so much better at finding it now. But like you said, I was pretty good at hiding anything that didn’t look *perfect* None of my LD problems came to light until my son was DX’d and surprise, surprise, MOM had the same issues.

  3. Wendi,

    Love the post (my daughter is just moving past the perfection or don’t bother stage), but the comments grabbed me even more today!

    I have an uncle with dyslexia. They used to tell my grandmother that he was just an idiot. (Late 1950s–early 60s.)

    He left high school, moved eight states away, worked as a mechanic for fifteen years, and then a girlfriend with two young kids said “I think you might have what my son has.”

    Naturally, he married her, as he was finishing college. He teaches high school now, and they have three little people of their own—brilliant teenagers, from my dear uncle who couldn’t be taught.



  4. My Mom used to point out how I would color outside the lines….look at how neat my sister’s drawings were. Why don’t I try to be more neat like that?

    Well, it turns out I’m the one who’s the artist in the family. Nobody tells me how to color anymore…! 🙂

  5. Kelly,
    I don’t know any dumb dyslexic people. Uneducated yes… Same with the LD people I’ve met since being thrown into that world. Everyone of us excels in some area almost in direct proportion to the extent of our disability. I have been tested at reading 1000 words per minute at 100% comprehension. I have a photographic memory if I have seen something on a page. ( that gift is fading with age) I count on my fingers, Can’t visualize my left or my right, don’t know my multiplication tables, can’t spell , can’t line things up in neat rows or columns and type like a two year old. You win some you lose some. We need to stop how we determine what this thing is we call *smart* and start appreciating people for their natural gifts.

  6. Friar,
    when I was a pre-school teacher, I taught my three year olds to make a big mess. I wouldn’t give them any art projects with lines. I let them paint whatever they wanted. We did lots and lots of finger painting and messy things becasue I knew they weren’t going to be aloud to mess up their homes.

    I had a blast, so did they.:)

  7. Dean, it is a pleasure to have you here. Thanks for joining us and I hope you will subscribe and come ofen and comment.

    Everyone, I encourage you to click on Dean’s name and go check out some really neat poetry. That is one talented guy there!

    Welcome to our community Dean!

  8. @Wendi

    I dunno…(???)

    I notice when you leave comments on my blog, sometimes I can’t click on your name either.


    WordPress Gremlins? Or the full moon, perhaps?

  9. “Thank God for big erasers. Thank God I don’t have to live my life in pen.”

    This just sums up the whole concept beatuifully, Wendi. Never have been “within the lines” and it is good to read that it is ok to use an eraser.

    Erasers don’t justify a thing. But, they sure can rectify! I love with an inner eraser, always. Provided by a Creator who knew I would be constantly “changing” thought mid-stream, penciled word flows no longer acceptable. Inner eraser for the huge mistakes made in those early 30s! Gads, I am lucky to be alive!

    Yes erasers are a good thing. They are sometimes handy little items sitting with patience, on a desk. Other times, they are magnificent blessings. Cleaning the soul and clearing the spirit.

    Ms. O
    Eraser Owner

  10. It has taken me years to learn that you don’t have to color within the lines. In fact I’m still learning. Sometimes I need to be reminded that it’s ok to erase and start over or fix something. You usually remind me of that little fact, and when you do it makes perfect sense! Thanks!

  11. That is a lovely post to showcase that indeed we need time to tweak things to perfection. I’m also an impatient person and this reminds me that it is ok to make mistakes. That’s another reason why we should double check before we post anything that stays online for eons.

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