ellen mcbee

She's always up to something…

Writers and Painters

So, for those who’ve been following me, you’ll know that I just returned from Jackson Hole Writer’s Conference.  I’m still organizing my thoughts on the experience, and I’ll write about it sooner or later.  But I do have two recommendations if you go:  1) sign up for as many critiques as you can get; and 2) make sure to put your name on the list of people who want to read at the conference.  It was a very supportive environment and I feel like I learned quite a bit.  In fact, I don’t really know how people go to more than one of these a year!

All that aside, this week I was thinking about writing (since I was at the conference) and about writers and artists and so on.  One of the common themes from the conference was that it’s important to talk about writing and not be secretive about it, as most of us are.  And then I got to thinking about my friend Melissa.

I met Melissa when we were in college.  As long as I’ve known her, she has been a painter.  She posts about her work, she sells her work to our friends, she tries out different media from time to time.  And we’ve all always known she was a painter.  She puts up shows; sometimes she sells everything, and sometimes only a few pieces.  None of us ever stop calling her a painter.

And, to carry this image a little further, we have another friend who sometimes appears in Melissa’s paintings.  I don’t think Melissa has any weird obsession with this friend; she just likes to paint her.  And she’s not painting the real person.  She’s painting an appearance, a physical form.  Occasionally, maybe a particular gesture or expression.  She’s not holding this friend up for ridicule or to expose her to the world.

So, my point is that I think we need to embrace the idea that we’re writers because we write.  It shouldn’t matter if you’ve made sales, or even if someone has seen your work.  You’re a writer because it’s what you do.  And even if some of your characters share an appearance, or a gesture or characteristic, with someone you actually know, it doesn’t mean you’re writing about that person.  You’re writing about some aspect of that person that interests you.

Maybe it really is that simple.  Writers write.  It has less to do with the outside than you’d think.

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