If you’ve read my book, you’ll know that I take an intuitive painting class. Intuitive painting is about spontaneously painting what comes up from within you. The focus is on expressing yourself, not on form, technique or what your picture looks like.
Each student knows this, and yet we all still worry about appearances: the colours we’ve used, that something doesn’t look realistic, or that our paintings are just really weird.
One common issue is that we’ll see an image so clearly in our minds, but it refuses to translate into a painting. The same thing can happen with writing: the words you put on the page don’t match the ones you had in your head. It’s very frustrating.
One day, the image of a glorious blue flame came to mind. It was composed of different shades of blue – pale, sky and dark – and so bright and alive. I was energised and immediately began to paint. I couldn’t wait to recreate it.
You know where this is going. It didn’t look like a blue flame at all. It looked like a flower. A spiky flower. It was kind of a cross between a tulip and Bart Simpson’s hair. I don’t know why my beautiful blue flame turned out that way, but it did. I wasn’t happy at all.
When my teacher complimented my work, my response was to complain about the blue flower that was meant to be a flame. My teacher quietly listened to me, and I when I stopped talking, she said, “Don’t worry about what it looks like. It’s a blue flame in your heart.” She went on to explain that just because something doesn’t look like what you expect, doesn’t mean it lacks value or beauty. She added that this was the point of the class – it’s not what our paintings look like, it’s what they actually are; what they mean to us and what they represent. And who’s to say that my painting can’t be both a flower and a flame?
When I’m writing something and it doesn’t come out the way I imagined, I tell myself, ‘It’s okay, it’s a blue flame in my heart.’ I sometimes substitute the intention as well: ‘It’s okay, it was a funny story in my heart.’ ‘It’s okay, it was an examination of twenty-first century online culture and representations of gender in my heart.’ There’s a reason the piece turned out differently than expected. It’s up to me to figure out the reason why. I can then do any necessary rewriting, or just accept the result and enjoy it.
This doesn’t quite work for copywriting, of course. If a client wants me to write about computers, I can’t turn in a text about an apple tree in bloom and tell them it was about computers in my heart. But unexpected results for copywriting can still tell you something, if you’re willing to listen. (You shouldn’t submit those results to your client, of course. Just don’t dismiss them out of hand.)
So don’t be discouraged if what was in your heart doesn’t quite match what is on the page. Enjoy it, and then see what you can make of it. Maybe it’s perfect, just as it is.
This week’s prompts
Use the following prompts to start a new piece, continue an existing one, or to just have fun with words.
1. Confetti razor blades
2. A telemarketer called and wanted my…
3. The purple lotion flowed…
4. A simmering pot, filled with…
5. Scroll down for the…