Advice is easy to come by and not always easy to follow. I’ve been offered some great advice in my life, some solicited, some not, some with my best interests at heart, some not. Mary Schmich (not Baz Luhrmann, nor Kurt Vonnegut!) wrote that wonderful piece ‘Wear Sunscreen’ that included an awful lot of advice but also the disclaimer that Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.
When I was working in the art industry, a lot of visual artists would find their way to the gallery or the studio and want to pick our brains. Unlike some of the other staff, I loved that (unpaid) part of my role. I guess I am a teacher at heart. Nothing could make me happier than seeing someone succeed in the arts, especially if it’s as a result of my advice or more direct mentoring. I remember urging artists and those who wanted to be, to do lessons, hone their techniques, experiment, develop a body of work, but most of them just wanted to know how to get their work into a gallery or how to win competitions.
In that case, I could only fish my past out of the trash and dust it off and tell them to do the opposite of what I had done.
I’ve written a lot (earlier on the blog) about my chequered success as an ‘artist’ and I won’t blether on about it again, but seriously, I occasionally wonder what might have been if I’d followed my own damn advice, or been offered (listened to??) the same suggestions as a young artist.
A couple of videos from YouTube with advice for artists.
All of the above goes for writers too.
Hone your skills, go to classes, develop a body of work… art is art whether it’s painted on a canvas, hewn from timber or scratched onto a page.
When I first started writing more seriously, some bright spark told me that going to classes or joining a group would be detrimental to finding my own voice. I was lucky that I knew better after years of cutting my teeth on visual art. But I was also well aware of the analysis paralysis that can come from doing just one more class or buying just one more how-to-write guide. It’s a balancing act but we have to seek out good advice from those who have already done a lot of the hard work for us. Stephen King’s On Writing is my favourite at the moment, but I’ve just started Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and I have a very good feeling from it already.
I love that most books on writing urge aspiring writers first and foremost to…write. It might sound a little obvious, (yeah no shit, sherlock!) but its the clincher! I have to admit that at the moment, I am a little bit like the egg-headed-stick-figure in the cartoon below. Life, editing, and implementing a new payroll system in our business, has bumped writing off the top of my daily to-do list. How embarrassing that I am blogging about the importance of daily writing but some days my only writing consists of my morning pages and this blog.
Which is still pretty good.
Ray Bradbury on How to be a Writer…