I opened my sketchbook today for the first time in a while.
Not to draw. In fairness, I have a couple other random places where I’ve been sketching lately, just not this particular sketchbook. Sketchbooks and I have a relationship similar to the one I share with my books and journals: I often have several going at once, each guided by a different purpose.
But this particular sketchbook has remained unfinished longer than any other. I began it in the fall of 2011, during my second year at Edinburgh. I took it with me to Russia, and to Austria, but I left it behind when I went to Madrid. Maybe it would have helped to have brought it with me.
When I opened the pages today, they crackled. They’d gone noticeably yellow and turned a bit frail. I remember purchasing it in an office supply shop, and it would seem the paper doesn’t hold up as well as my previous sketchbooks did. My highschool sketchbooks are just as sturdy as when I purchased them, even if they are dirtier and somewhat worn around the edges. But then, I used to finish a sketchbook or two a year during highschool. I used to draw every day.
It makes sense that I stopped in college. Sometime in university, I realized I would have to choose between drawing and writing. And I picked writing. But looking at my sketchbook today, I felt an ache in my heart. Not that I’d made the wrong choice, but because I’d ever had to choose to begin with.
I don’t think I’ll ever be the graphic novelist I’d once dreamed of becoming. Back in highschool, I drew enough to be at the head of my peer group. I thought if I kept going, I could become a great artist. Now, I look at people younger than me, and they’re beyond what I ever was. I invested my time elsewhere, and the only way I could catch up would be by taking time away from areas where I have gotten ahead. That doesn’t seem like a smart tradeoff to make.
But it doesn’t feel right to not be drawing anymore. As an outlet, it fed other areas of my life. It made me more relaxed. Inspired me to keep writing. So I’m tempted to find a way, just a little bit at a time, to keep the embers glowing. To finish that sketchbook, and start a new one. And do it again, and again, and again.
Some day, I will start a sketchbook that I will not finish. I hope I never know which sketchbook is my last. I hope I’m still drawing in one when I’m 90. But I imagine this will not be the last time I start a sketchbook and take over half a decade to finish it.