Today I painted for the first time since we arrived in France.

I have had good intentions since, oh, week three or four. Now, in month ten, I finally put paint to canvas. I had my little helper, the pants-less wonder, contributing – first with green ballpoint pen, and then with my paintbrush. He then commandeered my brush so I let him have it and from then on it only got dipped in water.

For the sake of keeping Louis’ private parts private, this photo was taken after he was re-pantsed and put to bed.

What a mess, eh? Ah, but it was fun. And oddly beautiful, I think, but a long ways off being ready to hang anywhere except up to dry.

And to drip. Very important.

Painting this, I thought it’d make a great metaphor for nanowrimo, and really for first drafts at anything creative. So here goes my bit of advice for today, entitled,

writerly wisdom from painting

– the first layer of a painting, is not ready to be seen. It does not need to be ready to be seen.

– the first layer is fun, free, exploratory, expansive. You can do no wrong – unless you stop. It is never wrong before it’s finished. And it’s always wrong if it’s never finished. (Wrap your nanowrimo-tired brain around that.)

– you can paint right over the first layer if you want.

– BUT you won’t know if you want to for a while – you may think you do, but give it time. You need some space and objectivity before you’re ready to make those sorts of decisions.

– a first draft is often beautiful as a first draft. Beware: an audience will feel cheated if you hang it in a gallery (or put it up online as an e-book)

We’ve all seen something like this in a gallery. Sometimes we think it’s lame because we are ignorant. And sometimes it’s lame because the artist is lazy, and scamming everyone. Don’t be that artist.

– that said, some of the best work is an accident. Happy, happy accident.

most of the best work is not accidental, and is not done in a first draft. Most of the best work hasn’t happened yet and won’t for sometime. This is a lesson in patience as much as a lesson in art or writing.

We had this charming little tune on a tape we overplayed during road trips when I was a kid. Whenever I think of patience, I think of Herbert the Snail. And I get this stuck in my head. (My gift to you.)

The moral of the story: chill out. And keep working.

Now, I wonder how long I can bear to leave that lazy scam of a hash job hanging on the living room door, taunting me with how much better it could, can and/or will be?