When I’m blocked, which seems to be often these days, I like to paint. I try to paint my children. (I mean I like to paint their likeness, though actually slapping paint on them does have some appeal.) My son likes to show his friends his portrait and laugh how it doesn’t look a thing like him. The little dear.
The more I paint the more I find it’s so much like writing. The idea of just putting something down, you can always paint over it. The idea of just relentlessly returning to it, adding, subtracting, but not giving up. The idea of what you end up with is so not what you set out to do.
And how with anything creative, the main thing is just to keep at it and not panic.
A lot of writers, it turns out, liked to paint: Jorge Luis Borges, Aldous Huxley, William Butler Yeats, August Strindberg.
Henry Miller once wrote, “Paint as you like and die happy.”
Tennessee Williams actually sold his paintings.
Kurt Vonnegut was also a keen painter. “I’m not an artist,” he said, “but I also recommend that people practice art, no matter how badly because it’s known to make a soul grow.”
Susan Minot who carries a purse-sized water color kit just about everywhere she goes said, “Sometimes when I’m feeling a little burnt out with writing, it’s a pleasure. You know it’s never something I feel, ‘Oh, I better go do that,’ which is what writing sometimes has become, because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
I have the exact feeling.
Which explains why I don’t mind leaving my unfinished paintings out for everyone to see. Something I just can not do with my writing. (I don’t even like anyone in the same room if I’m writing, terrified they’ll see something that’s not ready to be seen by the world!)
And why I don’t mind that my son doesn’t think his portrait looks a thing like him.
I’m not a painter, I don’t pretend to be, and it has freed to me to enjoy it.
photo by lumaahh (flickr)