When in Doubt, Just Trust Your Hand

by Mathias Reed via Unsplash

Sometimes the littlest offhand comment can leave quite the impact. More than hit the mark for which it was aimed, it can also serve to have meaning far beyond what it was intended…if you let it.

As much as I am a lover or art, I rarely take the time to try my hand at creating it. As an imperfectly recovering perfectionist, when I do take the time, I am overwhelmed by the blankness of the page and the crippling doubt of my own abilities.

Such was the case when I found myself seated at a table with a ragtag bunch ready to try watercolor painting for the first time. Well, probably not my first time, but let’s just say my last time included a snack break and naptime.

I listened to the instructor—a young intern with a big smile and an easy way about her. I followed her steps of adding water to the page and readying the paint, and I began painting the background. With the broad, gentle strokes she was encouraging us to use, my horizon actually looked a bit like…a horizon. All righty…not too bad. It had the right feel for the image I had in mind.


by Bench Accounting via Unsplash


After those spacious strokes, though, our instructor began illustrating for us how to create more detail. I watched her as she easily defined rolling hills and created trees for the landscape theme we were all attempting. Her hand moved deftly as I watched her brush make the scene come to life. She dabbed into paint of a color that seemed an unusual choice, and I watched as it beautifully fit into her work.

For her: easy, peasy. For me? Not so much.

She encouraged us to start our next step while she walked around the tables offering up positive reinforcement. She was a sweet kid with the right disposition to help novices not feel so incapable.

But that first detailed stroke was daunting for me. I liked my skyscape, but beginning my landscape made me want to…escape. I sat pretty much frozen for a while, and when she stopped by my table and asked if I was okay, I told her I was thinking. This was true. I was thinking, “How the hell am I not going to screw this up?” “Can you erase in watercolor?” “When I mess it up, can I just say I was trying to be Picasso-esque?”


by Alice Achterhof via Unsplash


My doubt was immobilizing. And then I heard my young but wise instructor say to another student with doubts of his own, “Just trust your hand.”

Now, she may not have thought much about what she said, but in that moment, those words dove into my ear and swam straight into my heart.

Just trust your hand.

Four little words that seemed like so much more to me in that moment. They spoke to my heart beyond my stilted attempt at watercolor artistry. I know as a writer I can be kind of a dork when it comes to loving words and turns of phrases, and…well, this was one of those times.

Just trust your hand.

Don’t overthink. Don’t doubt yourself into paralysis. Just trust your hand.

Trust your hand and try. Trust your hand and do. Quit thinking you can’t because it will be true until you just trust your hand into “can” territory.

My young guru offered me wisdom well beyond the paintbrush in my hand. How often we let fear and doubt undermine whatever talents we may possess. How many times we choose to leave life’s page blank because we don’t want to mess up. Instead of trusting our hand and striving for something, we doubt ourselves and end up with nothing.

Just trust your hand.

It was a simple reassurance, and Lord knows it isn’t a concept that I haven’t shared many times myself in encouraging others…but sometimes words come in a moment where they just hug my heart and remind me to embrace what I already know—but am wary to accept.

So I decided to trust my hand. I painted my picture.


a small corner of my painting
a small corner of my painting


There are definitely parts of it that make me cringe, but there are also parts of it that I like. Even one part that I actually kind of love. Regardless of the end result, though, I’m glad I didn’t let that page remain untried…and I don’t believe it will be my last attempt at watercolor painting. Perhaps I am just getting started.

Life lessons and reminders can certainly pop up in unassuming ways. I had no idea when I sat down that morning that I was going to leave not only with a sub-par painting (that part I was sure of) but a reminder to risk the brushstrokes of life rather than stare at its blank page.

I bet, too, that my young instructor had no idea she would leave such an impression with me, but I’m grateful to her for reminding me that sometimes it’s as simple as turning away from the doubt and humbly trusting your hand.




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