Painting is my zen. It's just me and the canvas and the oils, floating in a meditative cocoon. It's a dance of brush strokes and color. Requiring no actual thought process, I can listen to music or have a conversation while I paint. It gives my brain the freedom to wander where it will.
Writing, however, is my mind on cocaine. On at least the first draft, it's a manic rush to get all of my ideas on paper, with little regard to how it all fits together. My brain whirls with the goal of giving exuberant life to the characters in my head. For me, writing requires focus. Distractions put me completely off my game.
So how can two such disparate art forms coexist? Quite easily, actually. One complements the other, and of the two, painting is the more important.
I took up writing after I met my Canadian husband Tim. Traveling back and forth between Edmonton and Las Vegas is NOT conducive to painting, airlines tending to frown on bringing half-finished canvases on board. But writing can be done anywhere. Armed with my iPad and keyboard, I can churn out chapters from hotel rooms, airports, or our Canadian apartment. And when I say, "churn out," I mean it. Those chapters are bloated and rambling and clumsy, but they hold the essence of the ideas I'm trying to convey.
It's when I paint that my writing is refined. My thoughts drift to the characters. Are they believable? Are they interesting? Is my heroine REALLY going to keep carrying a heavy backpack when she's chased into a canyon by hostile strangers? I go back to the novel refreshed, focused, and ready to tighten the story to its essential bones. Draft after draft, I alternate words with colors. Keyboard with brushes. A flash flood of ideas with cerebral introspection.
For me, it seems to work.