Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Embracing the uglies

The awkward stage of life. Nobody likes it, but we've all been through it.

I don't know about you, but I went through my personal awkward (and what I considered ugly) stage when I was in junior high and most of high school. I was academic, wore glasses, and was shy. My clothes weren't as "in" as the other kids, and the only good thing I had going for me was that I didn't have braces. I have the Kodak moments to prove it.

On the flip side, eventually I grew up a little more and left a measure of my awkward stage behind. I was still shy, but in college it was not less than cool to like studying and get good grades. I got some contact lenses, although I still prefer glasses, and things seemed to have turned out well in spite of my earlier awkwardness.

Where, you might be asking, am I going with this? Well, in both writing and art, you have to travel through preliminary stages. This is unavoidable and necessary, because it is in the "ugly" stage that you discover your vision for a project. Without it, you'll never arrive at your desired destination.

I find this slightly easier to do in writing than in art. While painting, I always have the uneasy feeling that someone is looking over my shoulder. I know what's coming, because I'm in the ugly stage, and no one will understand that it has to be there unless he or she has painted before. It's a time of vulnerability that I do not enjoy.

I find this particularly true with murals. You're out in the open for everyone to see while you work. I've had people stare, obviously perplexed, at what I'm working on. I can see by the look on their faces that they were running under the assumption that I had some ability in the painting area, but suddenly felt they'd been grossly misinformed. Sometimes it's only when the complete vision manifests on the wall that they relax and smile. Now they get it. Now it looks good to them.

So this week, embrace the uglies. Don't let disapproval from outside or inside stop you. The uglies mean change, but they also mean growth, and growth is a good thing when you come out on the other side.

What kind of uglies have you had to face? Did you give up or press on?


  1. if you embrace the uglies you will face the truth and truth will set you free...

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  2. The uglies could also be called the uncomfortables or the unfinisheds. (Are those words?)