Taste vs. Talent

Drawing Ovals

When my son was in pre-k he came home from school excited to show me what they had been working on that day in class. He grabbed a pencil and a sheet of copy paper, “I can draw a circle mommy!” “You can?” I asked excitedly. “Let me see!” He held the pencil his tiny right hand and made the first attempt. He was clearly disappointed in the outcome. “Let me try again” he said. Swoosh went the marker. He was less than impressed. He started to panic and quickly banged out three gray oblong marks in a row. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. He studied the paper and then announced, “This pencil only draws ovals!”

I felt the exact same way when I started writing children’s books. I had great taste in children’s literature. (But I would soon discover that just because you can recognize a good book, doesn’t mean you can write one.) My kids and I would get canvas bags full of books every week and devour them. Good picture books seem effortless and easy to read. How hard could it be to write one? So I tried. But my attempts at creating a well-rounded circle of a picture book fell flat. My pencil would only draw ovals. But because I don’t give up on hard things (but I only have at most, two measly attempts in me when it comes to opening a pickle jar), I kept at it. I kept writing and reading and I even joined a kidlit writing critique group. I studied and learned and before long my ovals started expanding their egg shape. Somewhere along the line, and after many edits, I must have gotten pretty close to a circle because my story was noticed and in 2020 I will have two picture books published.

Anything worth doing takes time and effort. Lines may be imperfect and squiggly, but eventually with work and advice from those in the place you aspire to be, they will smooth out and come full circle. But first draw a bunch of ovals!

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