Friends, I have a question for you: If I told you that I wasn’t a practicing writer anymore, would you kick me out of this community? If I told you that my entire creative axis has shifted from verbal to visual, would you assume that I no longer had anything relevant to say to writers? Or would you read my claim for the lie it is, given the fact of my having written these words here?
Maybe you’ll do the smart thing and recognize that distinctions among all forms of creative expression are just that – distinctions – and that the thing that links us all is our creative practice, no matter what form of execution that practice happens to take. With that in mind, I’d like to share a bit of what I’ve learned about art lately, and how it reflects on writing, too.
One thing I’ve learned is that a drawing starts with an idea, just as a novel does, or a poem, or a play, or a piece of music. The journey from idea to finished business traverses a landscape of versions – iterations – including sketches, studies, false starts, dead ends, botched details, blind alleys, bent perspectives, and images that just… plain… break… As with writing, music, performance, or any other creative aim, versions – iterations – are the key. With my sketches, I realize that if I’m not doing a lot of versions, I’m probably not doing it right. Those versions amount to my exploration of the idea, and just as with a novel or with anything, in the end I’ll have to know much more about the idea than it’s ever appropriate to show. Therefore, for better or worse (at this stage of the game mostly much worse), I set out to explore.
I start by setting a modest goal. Maybe I only want to draw a face with an interesting smile. Modest goals serve me because I’m not at all afraid of them. Here again my longstanding practice of writing and my emerging practice of drawing overlap. I know from way back that setting modest goals for a writing project keeps my expectations low, and with lower expectations comes better performance. That’s a handy awareness to have as I set out to do something I’ve never done before – make art – and am probably not very good at. Whether in pictures or in words, most every creative practitioner is kind of crap at the outset. The smart ones set the goal to “just be less crap,” as that’s an expectation than can easily be met, without pressure and without fear. [Read more…]