What It’s Like

Faulkner on Perfection Design by Jann Alexander © 2105

This is what it’s like to be a writer.

There are times when you are possessed by your characters — the ones in the novel you are writing except when you’re not — because you are doing anything other than writing your novel. Still the characters are with you, in your head, living with you as intimately as your lover, while you let them in and then push them away. You do this with your lover; you do this with your characters. The push and pull becomes your dance, and when you let them embrace you, you are able to write about them. In fact, you are writing for them; without you, they cannot speak, so you put their words on your pages. And when you are able to fill up your pages with their words, you are smug, like a satisfied lover, and need nothing more.

“Your characters are in your head, living with you as intimately as your lover.”

This is what it’s like to be an artist.

There is a painting in your head, and as you lie in bed, eyes closed with sleep fading in, you can see the brushstrokes forming, sinuous across the canvas. The pigments mix themselves magically, and apply themselves to your sable brushes, and the burnt sienna glaze layers over the dioxizine purple atop the prussian blue. And in your mind, the painting unfolds brushstroke by brushstroke, and your brushstrokes are confident and pure, unlike any painting you’ve ever done in the clean northern daylight of your studio. When you are able, finally, to sleep, your painting completes itself with a competence and ease you’ve never experienced. You awake, and approach your canvas with hesitancy, aware of your painting’s power to both collude with you and destroy you in your aim for perfection.

“You’re aware of your painting’s power to both collude with you and destroy you.”

Around you.

Around you, life goes on. The dog demands to chase a squirrel. The toddler awakes from her nap. The UPS man requires a signature. The neighbor has locked herself out and needs her spare key. Your sister phones to prattle on about her blind date. In between these moments of living, your characters grouse at your inattention. Your palette of mixed oils dries out.

Around you, life goes on. ♣

I write and share art here, about diverse — and occasionally related — creative topics. For more on the art of writing, look here. Stroll through my art prints and paintings here. Or just find some inspiration among 45 quotes on writing, art and creativity, here.


Originally published at my blog, Pairings :: Art + What Goes With It, austindetails.me on March 11, 2015. Let’s connect on twitter — Jann Alexander @AustinDetails

A single golf clap? Or a long standing ovation?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.