I saw Sam Anderson’s Letter of Recommendation in the NYTimes Magazine today and spent the last few minutes of writing practice doing a blind contour drawing of a classroom window. Then I told my students to try it. Blind contour drawing reminds me of writing exercises: loosen up, don’t worry what the product looks like. Instead, attend your process. Pay attention. Today I noticed the painted hinges on the window panes and the bunched curtains at either side. I’ve stared up at that window all semester but today, drawing it, I looked closely.
And when I looked down at the page, what delight! as Anderson notes in his letter. There were all the parts of the window in a floating order. It was a window, but off, like it might shuffle its parts again, put another pane in the curtains, add a hinge to the sky.
Try it yourself, perhaps as an opening to your next writing practice. Choose an object nearby and draw it without looking down at your page. Be quick about it or take your time. Practice observation. Purposely choose imperfection.