As a writer, sometimes there is nothing more frustrating than being unable to find the right words. That’s our job, isn’t it? Those words are supposed to be our sacred tools. When they fail us, we ourselves feel like failures.
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. The blank page can be intimidating, the first strokes (be they letters or pencil marks) even more so. I’d like to take a moment and share the artistic process with you, as I believe a visual example can better illustrate the point I want to make. This is a sketch I drew in December 2014. I decided to catalog my progress from start to finish. Look at the first snapshot, and then study the finished drawing. In between that time frame was a lot of self-doubt, frustration, and a pessimistic certainty that I should just crumble the piece of paper into a ball and start over.
With the first few strokes, I could see the image in my mind as clearly as if it were already drawn. The first lines are to check proportions and structure. There’s a lot of erasing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The task is new and fresh.
With the outline of the horse completed, I felt disheartened. In that state, developing it into a creature seemed like an unattainable goal. The initial creative flare I felt when first starting had burned low, and if I let myself give up, those cinders would have been extinguished. I put my head down and told myself, just keep going, just see what might happen. Don’t listen to that little voice in the back of your head telling you to give up.
With the first section shaded, my creation was taking its first breaths. The doubt lessened, and my confidence swelled. The sketch was coming to life all on its own. I was simply a vessel to transfer its essence into a form everyone could see.
And by the end, I couldn’t even remember how much I struggled in the beginning. That was why I took snapshots of the journey, to look back and see the path I had taken. Even now, I look at that top row and wonder, How did I turn that into art?
This is how writing is. It’s not as easy to capture a snapshot of your writing when most of the page is still white. It’s a completely different process of reading, writing, revising, and planning, and you can’t push your chair back and see the growth and development from the first draft like you can with a pencil sketch. But it’s there. Think of that first snapshot as your first page. Your first draft is the third snapshot — you can see the whole outline, and you’re just starting to shade in the empty space, but you still have a long way to go. Put your head down. Keep going. See what might happen. And whatever you do, don’t listen to that little voice in the back of your head telling you to give up.
Your masterpiece will come.