Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: An Art Metaphor For Me

My retreat week (yes, it has been a month, and yes, I am still talking about it) reading turned up a great article in the September, 2017 Writers Digest.

Here at Original Content I write mostly about managing time in terms of discipline and working. But occasionally I've covered ways to write faster or write more efficiently. In Train Your Eye for Better Writing, author Tess Callahan describes three techniques inspired by training and skill sets used by visual artists that seem to me to have the potential to help writers speed up.

Speed Up In An Artist's Way

Emulation. Just as artists study things like composition or brush strokes by copying master works, writers can practice writing in different writers’ styles. How can it help speed you up? When you're having trouble getting started, use your idea in a well-known author's style just to get something down on the page.

Frequent Small Sketches. Figure drawing classes sometimes involve working with poses that last seconds. Writers can work the same way throughout the day, jotting down bits and pieces of things seen or heard. Maybe thoughts. How can it help speed you up? "Sketching" can help you take advantage of small amounts of time that you would otherwise assume were useless because they weren't big enough for you to complete, say, an entire chapter or an essay.

Underpainting. Landscape and portrait painters often begin with a monotone underpainting that they use to “play with composition rapidly...before committing to a particular layout." Callahan suggests comparable “quick, loose first drafts.” She describes having begun a 500 page manuscript with a 20 page underpainting. This is my personal favorite. I did an underpainting of this blog post while I was still on vacation. I've been using this concept since I got home on two different projects. I "underpainted" a chapter I later completed, and I'm using the same method on a second one. Even a family member who was home one day last week was impressed by how much I was working.

Maybe We're Talking A Metaphor Here

Some might argue that sketches are nothing new and underpainting is just freewriting. But I like the idea of underpainting in a way I've never liked freewriting. (Oh, my gosh. Freeeewriiiiiiting.) It's far more freeing than freewriting, which I had an unpleasant experience with in college. I never studied painting, so I've got no complaints about it.

Maybe art here is a writing...and time...metaphor, and it's a metaphor that works for me. Maybe we all need a metaphor. 

For each technique she describes, Callahan also offers what sounds like a good book on writing that illustrates or supports what she’s writing about. This article is good enough to make hunting for this back issue worthwhile.

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