On The Similarities of Artists and Writers (AKA, The One Where I Found My Art Supplies)

Over the weekend I pulled out my art supplies. It’s been years since I used them and I rarely even doodle so what little drawing skills I had have seriously deteriorated. As I dug through supplies I found some lightly used soft pastels, a lot of very used graphite pencils from the drawing class I took way back when during my first semester of college, a few sketchbooks with a few abandoned sketches and an unopened package of oil pastels. So, I flipped through all the abandoned sketches in the smallest sketchbook in the pile, cracked open that brand new pack of oil pastels and set to work on a drawing.

A really crappy drawing. In fact, once upon a time I would have torn this drawing out of the sketchbook and hid it in the darkest corner of my closet. But, why do that? Sure it’s not the greatest drawing in the world but if I keep drawing, I will get better. There was a time when I could draw a decent picture. If I keep working at it, I can reach that point again. I might even be able to go beyond that and continue to improve.

I also know that even if I reach that point, I’ll have my crappy drawing days. It’s that way with writing too. There are moments where I sit down at my computer or pull out a notebook and put crappy words on a page. Usually I have an inkling that the words are not good or I wrote them so late at night and in such a tired haze that I don’t even remember what I jotted down and in those instances (and only those, I don’t read what I write until I finish a story, otherwise my nitpicky side takes over and nothing gets finished) I briefly skim the words on the page. Once I confirm that they are no good I either fix them up to make them look pretty or open a new document/pull out a blank sheet of paper and rewrite the passage.

Writers and artists are alike in this way (as well as many others). We both do what our passion is and what our skills are. Even on the uninspired days or the days where our skill isn’t quite up to par, we do it. After all, practice makes almost perfect. You can’t edit an empty page. Whatever step we take, whether good or not as great, is a step in the right direction because it’s a step.

So, I will hold onto this crappy drawing because one day in the future I will compare it to a better drawing, just like I keep all of the words I write, even the crappy ones. And, on those days when I’m feeling discouraged I can look back at the start and the finish to see that the process is worth it, that something crappy can turn into something beautiful.

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  • Reply
    September 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    This is such an important thing to remember. It's easy to get frustrated if our writing (or art) isn't brilliant on the first try. I need to remember this blog next time I want to throw out my first draft!

  • Reply
    Julia, the Thanksgiving Girl
    September 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    You know what, I would go even further and suggest that all creative people are like that. Especially now that I have a new job (in social media marketing), I realize this more than ever!

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