The Thirty Minute Blogger

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Monday, April 28, 2014

Art and Writing: The Process and the Fears

I was just having an insightful conversation with my brother. He's an artist and I'm a writer. We got into a conversation about process that I thought might be instructive to pass along to those just beginning their endeavors.

He told me about the process for art. The original idea, he said, is stupid. It just is. If the end product is the faithful culmination of that original idea, the art will be awful. The real magic in the process are the myriad decisions that are made all through the creative process that transform that original, foolish idea into a meaningful, beautiful work of art. All those decisions, all those details, lead to a creative whole that the artist could not have imagined when the process began. That's a secret that is well worth learning and repeating to yourself over and over again, budding artist. My brother has been at this for a long time and says he still has to relearn that basic lesson many times as the years roll by.

One artist fear he related is that doing art seems like foolishness, especially when you are just starting any project. That is, of course, before you are fully vested in the work and well before you've made all those decisions. You're just working with that original, stupid idea, so, of course, it feels stupid. But it doesn't stay that way. Have faith.

Now for the writer. Writing is a cumulative process. The writer who feels he/she knows exactly what the book, story, article will be when he/she starts in in for a rude awakening. The end product is once again the result of many decisions made throughout the writing process. There is a lot of editing work to do. No author, none whatsoever, writes pearls and gems the first time around from beginning to end. Like the artist, a huge number of decisions need to be made and a great deal of investment in time and interest goes into the end result (much more so for a book than a 500 word column for a small circulation magazine of course, but it is still there).

The fear is that you are wasting your time. The fear is that what you will write will be derivative of the research you've done. You'll just be saying what others have said before in your voice. It's an awful feeling. It's the feeling of impending failure before the process has really begun. We're back to that initial stupid idea problem. That comes from forgetting that no two writers have ever lived the same experiences, felt the same feelings precisely, or view the world through entirely the same lens. None do. Every book on the same subject will be different as long as each author has made an honest effort to produce his/her own work.

There they are in a nutshell. The creative process and the fear that rides right along with it. Stick with it, enjoy the work, all of the work, all those many cumulative decisions, and eventually, the finished result, which is yours alone. 

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