jeannineatkins (jeannineatkins) wrote,

A Thousand Bad Drawings

Our friend Dan recently told about an art student who brought him four unfinished drawings. Okay, not bad, he said, “but why didn’t you finish them? You need to make a thousand bad drawings before you get a good one. So finish these and get back to work on all the next.”

She insisted on a critique of the unfinished work, so he delivered, and she defended.

Which doesn’t help either. Agree or disagree, but use either to finish the work.

Bad art comes before the good isn’t just a rule for the beginning of a possible career, but it’s something I practice every day. My habit is to move my pen before making judgments. Everyone knows a cake looks like a mess before it gets to the oven, and not great even while baking. Anyone who’s sewn knows a dress or quilt starts from thread, scissors, and cloth. Writers often start from the junk in our minds: overheard conversations, everyday worries, deep-rooted obsessions. I pour some of the stuff of the day, the worries and appetites, into great unwashed journals, which unclutters my mind for hopefully better things. I offer myself space and time for the clumsy or clichéd, which frees me to cross to places I’d never have otherwise imagined.

If I don’t let myself write anything whatsoever, I can’t write much worth giving to someone else to read. I think I had some good lines in Borrowed Names, but if you know me or met me, you wouldn’t guess I’m a poet. I mumble and mutter about dogs, dinner, movies, and whether I should I get up and find a sweater. But if I stay with my mind long enough, I can get past to something good. And to do that most efficiently, it’s best to move my hands. Starting with any old thing that's before my eyes.
Tags: writing process
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