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  • Writer's pictureCheyanne Lepka

A Lesson in Writing from Illustrating

So, this is almost definitely part ramble, but I’ve been thinking about my art more lately, and how the production of illustrations can inform other art.

I was working a while ago on an illustration. And getting extremely frustrated with it. I’d lost almost an entire drawing the day before, was completely discouraged and simply put, just didn’t want to do it. But I had to - that’s the nature of work when you’re being paid to produce art.

See, I don’t usually experience anything akin to writer’s block when I draw. Usually, I know what I’m drawing and I sit down and draw it. But a couple Sundays ago, I was hit hard with this feeling. Just like writer's block. I didn't want. Every line I drew looked like garbage. And I made adjustment after adjustment, but I couldn't get it to look right.

Random doodle in place of work drawing

Sorta like how I've been feeling about my book these days.

I even posted about it on twitter cause what I was drawing looked like a blobby rectangle.

Yup, just a casual conversation with myself.

But. I fell back on some advice I received from my junior high art teacher. (Yeah, that long ago.) See, this teacher, taught me the one lesson that has never failed me:

Don’t draw what you think you see, draw what's actually there.

Okay, and I realize that this sounds like vague advice that doesn’t actually mean anything. But what it is, is a reminder not to let your ego get in the way while you’re drawing. We get caught up on what we think things look like, that we miss what they actually look like.

Once I remembered this, and went back to my drawing, I realized that that’s exactly what I’d done and after a few minor adjustments, I filled in the stippling and finished the drawing It was gorgeous. Back to my usual quality of work. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

Anyway, you’re probably thinking, what does this have to do with writing? But it’s led me into a theory about my writing.

I’ve been making adjustment after adjustment. Rewriting every word I can. And generally being nitpicky (okay, I'm always nitpicky, but that's beside the point). Anyway. It’s exactly the same feeling. Which tells me I have to take a step back and really think about what I’m trying to write.

What if I’ve gotten so caught up in what I think my book needs, that I’m not even fixing the right things?

Once I returned to my writing with this same humility, I felt better about my writing. It wasn’t that I knew immediately what needed to be fixed (I’m still not entirely sure I do). But I started to see the places where I was getting hung up on what I thought my book should be, rather than what it actually is. With that attitude. I’m moving forward. Trying to be really observant. To keep an open mind about what my book actually needs, and not let my ego get in the way.

So, far. It’s been working and I hope it’ll keep working. I'm slowly making my way through revisions again (yeah, I'm onto part 2 and really excited about that.) So, sometimes, yes, a change in perspective is really helpful.

Anyway, just wanted to share this little nugget with everyone. (not sure if it’s gold or something else, but I’ve found it helpful.)

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