Recently at an exhibit of Vincent van Gogh in Paris, I came across a quote that really struck me:
“What is drawing? How does one get there? It’s working one’s way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How can one get through that wall? Since hammering on it doesn’t help at all. In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently.”
- letter from Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo van Gogh, October 22, 1882
I know Van Gogh was talking about drawing (so I bet it especially rings true to all of you illustrators out there), but I immediately saw the connection between this quote and the writing process. How many times do we as writers or illustrators struggle to get what is in our mind on to the page. We may imagine witty dialogue between two characters, and even ‘hear’ it in our heads, but when we write in on the page, it comes across as flat and quite boring. How many times do we hit that invisible iron wall?
One of the things I keep reminding myself during this summer writing challenge is the benefits of practice. If I only sit down once a week or even once a month, and expect amazing prose to pore from my mind on to the page, then I am kidding myself. Not only that, I’m actually letting myself down. Because if I only write infrequently, it may be “okay” or “pretty good”, but how much better could I be by practicing my skills every day?
I know that writing every day doesn’t guarantee that I’ll write brilliantly each day. In fact, I am sure there will be many days that I will write very little that may be salvageable. But the important thing is that I will be moving forward. As the quote states, “… one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently.” Slowly and patiently grinding through it. That’s what daily writing and illustrating is all about. And eventually, we will all have our own masterpieces.
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