I was a writer for many years – corporate writing, technical writing, editing, free-lance journalism. I penned the occasional poem or short story and eventually wrote novels and full-length plays. I’m still a writer, but no longer for money. I’ve graduated to being the fledgling artist that I am these days, satisfying a deeper and older creative urge.
When I was a writer – and before computers – I did what all writers did when they were stumped or had written five paragraphs of what could only be called crap, known in more polite society as a “rough draft.” I pulled the paper out of the typewriter, wadded it into a ball and tossed it either into the wastebasket or across the room, sometimes narrowly missing the cat.
Computers have made this a challenge. The delete key works, but hitting the delete key is a puny and generally unsatisfying answer to the frustration of hitting a block on the road to creativity.
This morning I found myself up against the painting equivalent of writing five paragraphs of crap, and I also found the painting equivalent of wadding up the paper and tossing it across the room.
I’ve been working on a new mixed media abstract piece for a few days and was becoming increasingly frustrated as it seemed to go from “Gee, I like this one a lot,” to “What the…?,” back to “Oh, this will work,” and then again to “What the…?”
After a couple of hours this morning, I nudged it to a place I liked pretty well, very close to the original “Gee, I like this one a lot,” when doubts and general frustration began to set in along with a sense that I was facing one of those blocks in the road.
Then I did it. The Thing. I wadded it into a ball and tossed it across the room. And I have to say it was much more satisfying than any such moment in my writing.
Of course, you can’t wad a 12″ x 15″ piece of heavy illustration board into a ball, so I did the next best thing – for me. I loaded up one of my brushes with my favorite shade of red, stood back and threw the paint at the painting in progress.
It was one of those “What have I got to lose?” moments. But even fledgling artists and writers and musicians and dancers know that if we’re not pushing the edge, taking the risks, we’re really not going anywhere.
I could have fiddled with this for another three days, the way writers endlessly fiddle with a bad paragraph in a “rough draft” only to find it doesn’t get better.
I’m happy to report that the painting got a lot better. I have awarded myself the Red Badge of Courage for today. And this fledgling has flown just a little higher toward the sun.