If I liken my writing process to painting a picture…
The canvas rests precariously on the easel. In stark contrast to the room that surrounds it, it is bleached, devoid of colour. It has so much potential where it is, but it will never be fully realized unless splashed with colour, meticulously or haphazardly applied, dependent upon the artist’s whims. It begs to be painted, the masterpiece vibrantly alive and vivid in the mind’s eye of the artist, but she hesitates over the canvas. The colours are right there in front of her, the brushes poised to be picked up, but she procrastinates again wiping her hands nervously on her smock.
This is the most difficult part of the painting: the first stroke. The whiteness of the canvas is, in many ways, pure perfection. There are no mistakes to wipe off and away; no regrets, no tears upon it yet. That first stroke will change it forever. The experiences and will of the artist will be reflected upon it, the moment she begins to paint. That is why she hesitates. She knows what she wants to express. She knows the colours and the shading she wants to incorporate into the piece, but will the masterpiece in her mind come to glorious fruition on the canvas? Has she over estimated her abilities as an artist? Does she have the talent, or the will, to express herself in such a way that anyone who gazes upon the painting will experience the same colourful landscape she sees in her mind’s eye? She is almost paralyzed with insecurity.
Taking a deep breath, and whispering a sigh-like “help me” prayer, she dips her brush into the paint. As soon as she makes that first brush stroke she is committed. The painting takes on a will of its own. The original picture she envisioned is changing before her eyes. She adapts by adding hues, texture, and tones she hadn’t originally thought about using. It’s not perfect but it’s the imperfections that give it subtle essence and depth of perspective. She steps away many times to pace, clear her head, and rethink what her next move will be.
She forgets to eat, the clock on the wall ticks on rhythmically, keeping time with her brush strokes. The light dims in her studio, but still she paints on. Reluctantly, she lets the brush drop when her eyes can no longer focus on the intricacies of the work before her. She is spent. The canvas is still wet. Wiping her paint splattered hands off on her smock; she sees something out of the corner of her eye and wonders if she has time to add just a dab or two more of burnt umber to highlight the scene. Shaking her head, she wills herself to walk away. Tomorrow will come soon enough, and though the unfinished picture still burns in her mind, she forces herself to return to some kind of normalcy that is found just outside of her studio at day’s end. Sleepless nights and crazed days of painting, sap her of strength but she is driven to finish her work. Her imagination now splayed in wild abandon, on the once bleached canvas, is uncontrolled and unbridled. No amount of coaxing can sway her from completing her task.
Her family has been patient with her while she has felt the urgings of creativity pull her away from the chores of making dinners, vacuuming rugs and cleaning toilets. Her paint projects always seem to take her far away from the trivialities of life. Her family understands. Subsisting on pizza and take-out while she paints, her family are her greatest cheerleaders. It does not go unnoticed by her. She will call them her precious inspirations. When the painting is finished, framed and displayed on the walls of a gallery, she will trivialize her efforts in a humbling attempt to bring honour to the way her family sacrificed while she painted. Until then, she is completely immersed in the project at hand.
After what feels like a lifetime of effort, she jabs her brush like a rapier towards the canvas one last time. With the conclusive splash of colour, she steps back exhausted and almost weeps at the finality of it.
In the days following the unveiling of her work, when others praise and critique her efforts, she will remember and recount the “help me” prayer lifted up in panic, moments before the first brush stroke. She will acknowledge that without His Calling on her life, and His Gifting, she would not be able to generate the art before her.
In the weeks that follow, there is a peaceful lull. She cleans her studio, and her home. She reacquaints herself once again with the routine of being a wife and mother and finds some tranquil satisfaction in her less flamboyant role as homemaker. She all but abandons her paints and brushes in favour of this temperate existence until she remembers a new blank canvas with so much potential waiting for her in the studio. A picture gradually develops in her mind’s eye, and she cannot abandon the thought of it. It beckons to her until she can no longer ignore the Call and she breathlessly murmurs another “help me” prayer before she once again begins to paint.
This post was originally published on the InScribe Writer’s Online blog on May 17, 2018.