As a writer, I am the perfect example of what not to do. Granted, I'm new at this, but you'd think I'd listen to the hard-earned lessons experienced by famous authors. There are books and websites in abundance that aim to teach aspiring writers how to avoid the most common mistakes. I've read several of them. Have I taken heed? No. Not yet, anyways.
GOOD ADVICE: "Just write every day of your life."---Ray Bradbury
"Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration. The rest of us just get up and go to work."---Stephen King
"You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can't edit a blank page."---Jodi Picoult
MY REACTION: "Oh man, really? Every single day?? Who knows what I'll feel like doing today. I'll write when I'm inspired . . . unless something more interesting comes up. Hmmm, what's new on Facebook?"
WHY MY REACTION SUCKS: As many authors have noted, writing is a skill, like learning to play the tuba, or building the perfect martini, or becoming beer pong champion. It requires practice. In the course of writing my first novel, I actually did improve the farther into it I got. My grammar was refined. I laid off the adverbs and clichés and the word 'very'. I tightened up the dialogue and pepped up the action. All good, right? So why my resistance?
Honestly, I hate schedules. Now that I'm retired, I'm blissfully happy to let my days drift into their own free-form haze. Requiring myself to sit in front of the computer every single day, inspired or not, gives me a creeping sense of horror.
WHAT I'M GOING TO DO ABOUT IT: Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) doesn't have to mean working on my next book. It could be writing a short story, or a journal entry, or a shopping list. (Just kidding about the last . . . although creating an intriguing, suspenseful grocery list would be a fun bit of homework!)
I sincerely doubt I'll be writing every day, especially since I'm in the process of moving, but I've started looking for opportunities that pique my interest. Last week, I submitted a short story for a contest in James Patterson's Masterclass. I will also try to post at least one article a week on this website. I've made it easy on myself, topic-wise, as there are many, many mistakes I'm making as a writer. This is just the first confession in a shameful series.
We'll see whether or not I learn my lessons!
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.