One of my favorite school supplies is a good eraser. I have always admired its clean, smooth feel on the first day of school. I appreciated how it cleaned up evidence of mistakes. But I recently realized that I’ve been thinking about the eraser all wrong.


We’ve started drawing at our house. The puppy-obsessed child chose a “Learn to Draw Dogs and Puppies” book from the library. The biggest challenge for both of us has been the idea that “messy lines,” lines that aren’t a part of the finished product, are an essential part of the process. The eraser is no longer a tool for eliminating stray marks and mistakes; it is an essential tool in the creation process.

In creating, we add support lines that will be erased. We follow paths in the design process that may lead us to knowing that they aren’t needed in the final product, and deepen our understanding of why they don’t work and in turn, why the final solution does. We create and polish a rough draft. We start with a framework and refine it. And that is the process.

An eraser doesn’t clean up our errors; an eraser allows us to make the “messy lines” that lead us to a better end result.

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