“Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way. – E. L. Doctorow
When I think of writing and painting, I am reminded of the above quote. The same feelings are evoked by facing the blank screen at the laptop or staring at an untouched canvas or pristine sheet of art paper. I tell myself it’s okay not to know everything. I must trust the process and jump in. I have nothing to lose.
Whether I have a theme, an idea, a detailed outline, or an available model for painting, the creative process produces the same fascination, exhilaration, and anxiety-producing emotions. I know my days will be filled with ups and downs, questions and discoveries, and twists and turns. I’ll experience plenty of aha moments, self-doubt, debilitating fear, and I will hang on with hope that even if I don’t know exactly where I’m headed, or if I get lost along the path, I’m embraced by the gods of creativity. I’m cheered on by anyone who has had the nerve and courage to pursue a creative project and life, even if only once.
In my opinion, getting lost is the most interesting, fun part of the creative process, which allows for discovery, if I let go of the end result and if I trust the journey.
Here are some questions I ask of myself while writing and painting:
- Is this a place where I should exercise control or release control?
- Should I slow down, stop, or rush through here?
- Is it best to skim the surface or go deep at this time?
- Can I sit with this mystery or question? How long?
- Am I heading toward caving in prematurely because it’s easier?
- Is it wise to prolong this journey, or is it best to end where I’m at?
- Will this decision or direction hinder or help the story or painting?
- How do I feel right about now? Do I need a break?
- Am I open and paying attention?
I encourage you to embrace the entire creative process, the good with the bad, the roadblocks and detours, whether you’re writing or painting. Not embracing the process might end up with producing a shallow, trite, staged, and not fully believable story or painting. The fact that you rushed through will show.
Do we really want a neat, tidy experience for our readers and viewers? Is the quick, easy route from A to Z the best course of action?
A viewing experience that allows for thought and discussion, discourse and personal growth is what I’m after; for myself and my audience. I lean toward the untidy, raw, transformative experience every time in story telling because that’s more like real life. Of course, I’ve always done things the hard way, but life is more exciting and rewarding when we trust that we’re headed is for our highest good. We should want that for our characters, as well.
Trusting ourselves and the process have the potential of positively affecting our creative lives and to me, that is a win-win situation.
ABOUT ELEANOR PARKER SAPIA
Award winning novelist, Eleanor Parker Sapia, was born in Puerto Rico and raised in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Europe. Eleanor’s career paths as an artist, counselor, alternative health practitioner, Spanish language family support worker and refugee case worker, continue to inspire her stories.
Eleanor’s debut novel, ‘A Decent Woman‘, set in turn of the nineteenth century Puerto Rico, is published by Sixth Street River Press. The book is a finalist for Best Historical Fiction, English, in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards with Latino Literacy Now, and was selected as Book of the Month by Las Comadres and Friends National Latino Book Club. Eleanor is featured in the award-winning anthology, ‘Latina Authors and Their Muses’, edited by Mayra Calvani.
When not writing, Eleanor loves facilitating creativity groups, reading, gardening, and tells herself she is making plans to walk El Camino de Santiago de Compostela a second time. She adores her two adult children and currently lives in West Virginia, where she is at work on her second novel, ‘The Laments of Sister Maria Inmaculada’ and thinking about the sequel to ‘A Decent Woman’ titled, ‘Mistress of Coffee’.