Monday, 11 March 2013

What writers can learn from the lives of artists

I've been reading about the life of Impressionist artist Edouard Manet this week past. His paintings delight me with their clean lines and satisfying contrasts, their masterful brush strokes and perfectly considered daubs of light and dark. But what really struck me were his letters, which reveal the reality of life as a creative person: translating idealism into practicality; trying to create something beautiful and meaningful; and frequently dealing with cash-flow problems. Manet was from an affluent family but many of his fellow artists were not, as this letter shows:

To his friend, artist Theodore Duret, he wrote, circa 1875,

'I went to see Monet yesterday and found him in despair and absolutely broke.
He asked me to find someone who would take between ten and twenty pictures of their choice for 100 francs apiece. Shall we do the deal ourselves, putting up 500 francs each?
Of course no-one, and least of all he, should know that we're in on this. I thought of trying to find a dealer or collector but suspect they might refuse.
Unfortunately, it takes people as knowledgeable as we are to do a good piece of business, in spite of the repugnance we may feel, in order to help out a talented artist. Send me an answer as soon as possible or suggest a rendezvous.'
E. Manet 

From 'Manet by himself' (Macdonald Illustrated) Edited by Juliet Wilson-Bareau

Monet! Broke! If only Claude had known the international stardom he'd later achieve, the zillions of office walls his avant-garde poppyfields and haystacks and sunrises would populate more than a century later. But thank heavens for his friends, no? As creatives following a personal vision, we all need a community of supporters. We need those people who'll give us a pep talk when our work's not selling, who'll convince us not to throw in the paintbrush or pen or PC but to continue doing what we love. If you're feeling broke and desperate today, phone a fellow creative. There's no such thing as an overnight success in art or writing - or anything worth doing, for that matter. Keep going, people. Keep doing what you're doing. The hard times are as valuable as the successes in turning you into the person you will become one day.

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  1. Hello.

    I like the look and feel of your blog. Last year I read your book WRITING FOR MAGAZINES and needless to say, enjoyed the trip.

    Last night I scraped my brain and chocked my diary once more to begin work in all earnest. I left a secure work environment in the financial services sector to pursue an enduring passion. To date, I have spent most of my time, reading, writing, copying and pasting, and studying.

    Family and close friends will know me as a great procrastinator. I can tell you that I can't make up my mind what to write about. Oh, and sometimes I lose track of a point I wanted to make.

    I've begun a process of preparing a first novel draft (from a tight, scrunched bundle of notes, typed and handwritten, nearly 80 pages in all.

    Now, I'm not looking to be spoonfed like the dada I am, but just a tip of inspiration from an acclaimed and respectable writer such as yourself. Is fear holding me back?

    Two things I'd like to do, write for the mags out there, and write my novel. And collect a pay cheque.

    Your WRITING FOR MAGAZINES BOOK was not only educational, but also at times, enjoyable and entertaining. I'll probably revisit it soon

  2. Hi Poetrymarks,

    Yup, I think fear is a biggie (see my latest blog post). Also the fact that life is rife with distractions, especially if one works from home. Oops, I'd better go and put the next load of washing in (see what I mean?). So there's a lot to be said for having a dedicated hour or so per day where one is strict with oneself, doesn't answer the phone or check emails, and simply sits and the PC and writes. Write anything, as long as it's connected with your book. Congrats on getting started! Keep going, just adding to it every day... Works for me!