Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hiding the Brush Strokes

It always looks so easy because the media wants us to believe it is. House flippers flip and make a fortune overnight. Writers pen the great American novel without breaking a sweat, directors create a one of-a-kind film just as planned and songwriters simply pen a classic on a whim. We want to believe that a playwright’s magic on Broadway was a simple journey from pen to stage.

Few of us truly understand the panic, fear, exhilaration, heartbreak and hope that goes into creating a work of art. We don’t want to hear about the years spent toiling in the graveyard of broken dreams, spent efforts and abject failures before something, if anything, ever happens from all that soul-crushing effort. It’s all made to look so easy.  We seldom, if ever, hear about the many miles traveled before success is reached. Instead every artist is presented as an overnight success.

It’s called “hiding the brush strokes.” Ignoring the harsh reality that in real life there are no guarantees and nothing is owed. Those with grit get it. Those lacking that ‘something within’ keep dreaming and hoping then wonder why nothing ever happens. Without real effort and sacrifice and usually some failure nothing is accomplished.

Dustin Hoffman spent ten years toiling in off-Broadway plays before ‘The Graduate’ launched his storybook career. George Lucas went through hell to get his first feature ‘THX 1138’ produced. When it crashed as a commercial failure, he wrote another movie initially called ‘Friday Night in Modesto’ and finally produced it as ‘American Graffiti.’ Even that success didn’t guarantee any support for his next feature about space ships and large furry sidekicks.

Dinkytown Scholar Coffee Shop

Bob Dylan paid his dues in Dinky town and Greenwich Village before a planted review by Robert Sheldon rocketed his career into the folkie stratosphere. The Beatles spent two years toiling in the graveyard of Hamburg’s strip clubs and dive bars before Brian Epstein plucked them out of the ‘Cellar’ and made them stars.

Closer to home and more personal, the examples are all around me.

I’ve seen Sharon start with her welding and metal art classes several years ago then recently expand to alcohol ink painting. From there she has experimented with acrylic paints and a host of other mediums and techniques to constantly challenge herself.

She is taking classes here and there to share ideas, glean tips and advice from the professionals. She is constantly learning, improving and growing her art.

After several years, she now has some of her select painting on display and for sale at a design store in Minneapolis. A small step but a start.

Ever the educator, Sharon has shared that same philosophy of discipline and perseverance with our grandchildren. Very quickly, they’ve become attentive students of Nana and have begun exploring various artistic mediums themselves.

The Colorado Kids' Gallery
3rd Place in his age category at the MN State Fair

1st Place in her age category at the MN State Fair

My art is the written word. My mediums are primarily novels, plays and movies. Each presents its own unique set of challenges and opportunities for story-telling. Through good fortune and lucky breaks, I’ve had two plays produced by the Second Act Players in Rosemount. Each was a wonderful learning experience and another opportunity to express myself.

But there were ten self-published books, an Investment Guide and numerous treatments before those two initial plays paved the way for more playwriting opportunities.

I teach in my workshop on ‘How to Get Started as a Writer’ that the key to writing is to write. I make the point right up front that there are no guarantees and no promises. I can only point the way for my audience. I remind them that there are three things needed to become a writer.

Desire…but they won’t know if they have it unless they give it a try.

Perseverance…they won’t know if they have it unless they try.

Talent…they won’t know if they have it unless they give it a try.

The key here is to write something every day, almost every day or whenever they can. If they do that they will begin to feel a passion that gets them out of bed each morning. They will have begun traveling on that long road to becoming a writer. That’s called showing your brush strokes.

As with any kind of art, nothing is guaranteed or comes easy. That’s life. But what a gift it is to create something, anything, that’s been swirling around in your brain for oh so long.

Let’s face it, there is no better way to live than to do whatever it is you love to do. Isn’t that what life is all about.

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