Painting & Writer’s Block

I’ve been playing with painting and sketching recently, and in my quest to learn a bit more, I came across this book at our local library.  Daily Painting by Carol Marine is a short look at how painting small projects on a daily basis can help us improve in a busy life. Two things were extremely helpful for me; the tips on how to be consistent and thoughts on artist’s block.

It has many tips on the technical aspects of painting and drawing, but the majority of the book is on how painting every day can help you progress as an artist. This is one of the things that I have heard repeatedly; many writing books advise writing every single day, and coach Ben Bergeron has talked extensively about building daily habits as being the key to long term success.

Additionally, I have long been intrigued by the concept of mental blocks. Some people claim that it’s just a lack of discipline, but from my experience  and research that simply isn’t the case. Sometimes your brain just runs out of juice and that’s part of life.

Does that mean there’s nothing you can do about it? No.

Imagine that you’re going to run a marathon. Do you take off at a dead sprint? Of course not, you go in with a an idea of what pace you want to run and you start there. You run the first mile and see how you feel, how the pace feels, etc, and make adjustments from there.

You know you’re going to run into a wall around mile 20, so you make sure that you prepare for it. You drink water and Gatorade as you run, maybe eat a banana or some snacks along the way. Then, when mile 20 hits, you know what it is, you expect it, so you adjust your pace, and keep going. You don’t question if you’re a real runner (you just ran 20 miles!), you don’t wonder if you’re a failure at running.

Then you finish the race. You go home, eat a massive meal that you usually wouldn’t (yay pizza), and probably go to bed.

You know what you don’t do the next day? See if you can set a new marathon record for yourself. You don’t even go on a training run. Maybe you do something slow and relaxing…like a walk.

All of this makes sense when we talk about a physical activity. So why do we struggle with viewing mental activity the same way? We treat our brains like Kriptonian superheroes, able to work and create without rest or recovery.

Even during NanoWrimo, it makes no sense to try to write at a blistering, unsustainable pace. NanoWrimo is a lot like a marathon, a long, grueling activity that can end with a sense of accomplishment.


Even if you’re not interested in painting, I encourage you to check it out. You’ll be surprised how much of it is applicable to writing. The chapters on marketing and blogging are instructive, and the focus on the little things we can do to make daily painting/writing easier in a busy life is both helpful and encouraging. To top it all off, Marine includes a chapter on fighting artist’s block. Not only does it describe some of the symptoms, but it consists mostly of small sections by other artists on how they have handled it  and moved on in the past.

It’s a fun read, and a good way to get charged up and encouraged as we prepare for NanoWrimo.


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