Don’t be afraid to use the ink

An exercise in breaking through my inability to embrace my desire to create

I have about 30 brand new sharpies stuffed in a bag in my bedroom dresser. Maybe more than 30, to be honest.

It’s at least two fistful’s worth.

The result of a slow accumulation.

Symbols of a desire to create, to write big ideas and goals on 3×5 cards — a desire to dream bigger than the life the day-to-day world seems to offer us.

Yet I’ve realized that my growing collection of sharpies is emblematic of a painful gap between who I am today and who I desire to be.

The overflowing bag of pens is a result of my overwhelming desire to create and my inability to embrace it.

As I stare at this mountain of contained ink, I can’t remember a single time I’ve actually thrown one away because it had run empty from use.

This is troubling.

Why am I afraid to use the ink?

It’s obvious it’s not a fear of scarcity, no fear of running out. There’s no arguing there’s an abundance of sharpie ink available in my house.

So what exactly am I afraid of? To be honest, I don’t really know…

I used to draw incessantly growing up. Even my college notebooks are overflowing with sketches. But today I sit here having not drawn in years.

Tonight decided to change that.

Inspired by The Masters golf tournament this week (which, for the record, I consider to be the greatest, most magical and inspiring sporting event on the planet), I decided to draw a picture of the par 3 16th hole at Augusta National (see below) — with nothing more than a sharpie.

I sketched out the outlines first. I then added the bushes and cherry blossoms in the foreground. All was going well.

But, then came the pond.

It started out innocently enough: mostly white with a few ripples drawn in — but it didn’t feel right.

White wasn’t enough. The water needed to be dark. Really dark.

The image needed contrast.

But darkness and contrast require a lot of ink. And my heart seized up the moment I realized what I needed to do.


I was terrified to use the ink.

The tip of my pen hovered for almost a minute as I deliberated whether or not to let the ink flow freely onto the page.

It’s scary to draw bold lines. So often we leave that to other, more convicted people as we continue to live our lives quietly and politely drawn with pencil.

I know because that’s what I spend most of my life doing.

I’m scared to commit,
Scared to choose,
Scared to jump,
Scared to create something I can’t take back,
Scared of the judgement that may (or may not) come when we release something into the world.

It’s easy to live a soft life.

It’s easy to leave the sharpies in the dresser.

The problem is we weren’t created to live lives like that.

We were designed to live lives full of empty pens and ink-drenched canvases.

We all have innate passions because our lives are supposed to be passionate.

We’re supposed to use ink with complete abandon.

I don’t want to be scared of using ink anymore.

As a first step to conquer the fear, I decided to draw a second picture tonight:

Now pardon me while I go throw away this pen.

🤝 Stay in touch

I send an email several times a year with a handful of the most interesting things I’ve written or uncovered at home, abroad, and on the web.

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