For some reason, my brain doesn't allow me to write and paint at the same time. Usually, I need several months of focused painting time, then several months of writing time. My little brain can’t handle both in the same week.
This week, however, I had the opportunity (pressure) to test myself. My MG manuscript revisions were done-done, and I was hired to create a commissioned painting. Woo-hoo! A whole entire week to work nonstop on one painting, without other commitments or distractions. The client gave me full artistic license, and my only restriction was color scheme. So, I embarked on the mandatory running/meditating/brainstorming session and blended landscape, still-life, and abstract pieces in my head, forming a mental image and creating my “intentions.” My painting mentor always asks me, “What are your intentions for this piece?” After laying the foundation and sketching initial shapes, I cranked up the iPod (obsessed with Maroon 5 right now…love you, Adam!) and got jiggy with my paints.
Just as I was belting out the lyrics, “really makes me wonder if I ever gave a f…” I got a message from my agent, suggesting that I rework the ending of my manuscript one last time before she sends it out again. So I finished singing the F-word, turned off Adam’s sweet voice, and returned to my dark, quiet computer resting in the dining room.
The short (or not so short) of the story is that I can paint and write at the same time! Who knew?? The art client kept coming by my house saying, “How’s that piece coming along? Ya have it done for me by Friday?” I wanted to finish the manuscript by Friday as well, so that it would be submitted before the entire publishing industry splits to the Hamptons for the summer. Spending the week running between the dining room and the garage was kind of fun. And, of course, I learned something too…
Painting and writing are very similar. Prior to beginning both, I need to sort out my “intentions.” Then I lay the foundation and big-picture shapes, themes and colors. But the hard part is revising, erasing, painting over whatever doesn’t work, amping up that which does work, adding layers and layers of detail, cranking up color spots, polishing and varnishing the bits you love so they shine like crazy. And rather than obsess over why Adam sounds so sad these days, and who that skanky woman is who broke his heart, I played with my paints and obsessed over why my ending felt so rushed, and how I could slow it down, but keep the tension, and add interesting details without muddying it too much (which is always a delicate balance in painting too).
And as I added tiny fluorescent pink details to the centers of my sunflowers, my book ending became clear. The “center” of the story, the heart, the underlying theme really, is family…what constitutes a family and what it means to us as humans. So I weaved it into my story, scraped little heart shapes into my flowers, and called it a week.