What It’s Like

Faulkner Quote on Perfection by Jann Alexander © 2105
Faulkner on Perfection Design by Jann Alexander © 2105

This is what it’s like to be a writer.

There are times when you are possessed by your characters—the ones in the novel you are writing except when you’re not—because you are doing anything other than writing your novel. Still the characters are with you, in your head, living with you as intimately as your lover, while you let them in and then push them away. You do this with your lover; you do this with your characters. The push and pull becomes your dance, and when you let them embrace you, you are able to write about them. In fact, you are writing for them; without you, they cannot speak, so you put their words on your pages. And when you are able to fill up your pages with their words, you are smug, like a satisfied lover, and need nothing more.

“Your characters are in your head, living with you as intimately as your lover.” Tweet:

This is what it’s like to be an artist.

There is a painting in your head, and as you lie in bed, eyes closed with sleep fading in, you can see the brushstrokes forming, sinuous across the canvas. The pigments mix themselves magically, and apply themselves to your sable brushes, and the burnt sienna glaze layers over the dioxizine purple atop the prussian blue. And in your mind, the painting unfolds brushstroke by brushstroke, and your brushstrokes are confident and pure, unlike any painting you’ve ever done in the clean northern daylight of your studio. When you are able, finally, to sleep, your painting completes itself with a competence and ease you’ve never experienced. You awake, and approach your canvas with hesitancy, aware of your painting’s power to both collude with you and destroy you in your aim for perfection.

“You’re aware of your painting’s power to both collude with you and destroy you.” Tweet:

Around you.

Around you, life goes on. The dog demands to chase a squirrel. The toddler awakes from her nap. The UPS man requires a signature. The neighbor has locked herself out and needs her spare key. Your sister phones to prattle on about her blind date. In between these moments of living, your characters grouse at your inattention. Your palette of mixed oils dries out.

Around you, life goes on. 

Jann Alexander's A Habit of Hiding_Book Cover

Want to learn more about my upcoming novel? 

Get a sneak peek at A Habit of Hiding here

For more on the art of writing, look HERE.

Stroll through my art prints and paintings HERE. Or just find some inspiration among 45 quotes on writing, art and creativity, HERE.

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21 thoughts on “What It’s Like

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  1. Well isn’t this the truth! The idea of perfection is a myth however. It’s told by a warted little elf who’s only task is to keep us from doing something beautiful by telling us it won’t be good enough anyway. Shoo that stinker out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Shooing that little stinker’s voice away is a daily project, and some days, his voice is louder than others. I think that’s when I’m moved to write posts like this one. Glad you can relate to this, and here’s to an imperfect day, Anita! Appreciate your feedback, as always.


  2. I love your thought of having to write the words for your characters, because without you they cannot speak. I had never thought of this before! I think I will read books a little differently now.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny how different media for creative outlets, inspire very differently. For blogging, I’m inspired by a personal experience that’s been sitting inside me, waiting to be shared, a photo or reading something from somewhere. I usually have a blossom of a theme/topic already articulated partially in my head by the time I start blogging. It helps me also to select the right photos through a huge personal collection. Focus is required!

    But for painting, it is more tabula rasa. I paint the undercoat and then paw through some block prints, shape things –I don’t pre-imagine an abstract painting at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I came over to visit your site from Susie’s blogging party. I find this post to be an interesting insight of how your characters or your art take over your mind. The image of living with your characters as with your lover, “The push and pull becomes your dance,” Brilliant analogy.


  5. Well, the interesting thing is I don’t consider myself a writer. I blog so I do that kind of writing, but I am not writing books so character development is not something I think about. But…I do find that I have a hard time separating any thing I might be working on from my personal life. I bring a particularly compelling problem at work home with me and the same is true for anything that occupies my time. Fortunately, whatever it is does not keep me awake at night which would be the point when I know I have to manage those things differently.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think there’s a blog post in that thought? And I meant that my characters, and my art, are with me in a good way . . . it’s a sweet way to fall asleep, if I’m having trouble, to imagine good times ahead for my characters, or think about colors and patterns and light in my art. Glad to hear from you. Thanks for adding some insights to my topic.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Since I’ve been blogging I find it interesting how many things I read or comments I hear make me think that could be a blog post. I can understand how thinking about your characters or your art can help. It could be calming and soothing, or I suppose depending on the art it could have an opposite effect.


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