Lessons at a Sip & Paint on Writing and Life

I recently went to one of those “Sip & Paint” nights at a local art studio. You know those places – full of women, hipsters, and the occasional guy there just to make his significant other happy.

I had anxiety. I’m not particularly crafty, and the three friends I went with had all been to one of these type things before. I just knew I was going to suck. Mine would be the one that looked like my 6 year old painted it.

Near the end of the night, to my surprise, I had a rough facsimile of the original piece done by our instructor. But mine, far from perfect, was on par with the majority of the class.  As finishing details were being applied, a good portion of the class were murmuring about how they couldn’t get X, Y, or Z right with their painting compared to the original. The great majority of our little class that night were quite unhappy with our trees.

And the instructor, obviously wise to the fact we were all being overly critical, said something brilliant.  Considering we had been inches away from the canvas for 2-3 hours, focusing on every detail, she told us, “once you get home, your piece will look much better than it does right now.”  I didn’t believe her. All I could see were flaws,especially my trees, not nearly as good as my painting buddy’s.

After we finished, we drove to dinner. The intense scrutiny of our paintings was forgotten as we caught up over a late dinner and the drive home. Relaxing and spending time with friends always does a soul good.

I walked in the door to my house much later and was actually mostly proud of my 16×20 original piece of hand-painted art. I showed my husband my piece with a bit of self-deprecation in my voice.

He examined it, nodded approvingly, and said, “Wow, those trees are really good.”

He had no clue I hated those trees just hours ago, lamenting the fact that they were not close to how I envisioned them before applying paint to canvas.

I looked at the painting. Huh, they did look a hundred times better now. Overall, my piece of work, in my house, with a bit of time and distance suddenly wasn’t rubbish. Our instructor had been absolutely correct in her advice.

I say all this as I think about another art I wrestle with regularly – Writing. When I spend hours at a keyboard pouring over my words, editing, erasing, and rephrasing, I lose track of my goal. I look at my words – those trees on my canvas – and it’s rubbish. My word “trees” aren’t as good as another writer’s.

But I’m not writing for their audience. I’m not writing for their book. And when I step away and come back later, what I’ve written isn’t always terrible. Someone actually likes my trees, someone comments and likes my choice of colors. Writing is an art. Instead of using a palette of colors, I use an array of words. My brushstrokes are words strung together in phrases and sentences and pages.

My biggest downfall writing is I’m hearing the voices, remembering the words of great authors. I get terribly concerned about writing like the greats and instead need to just write for enjoyment. I need to put words to screen (or paper, I occasionally scribble thoughts down in a journal) that mean something to me.

For all the anxiety I had that night heading to the Sip and Paint, I’m glad I went. Not only did I have a great time with friends, a night away from the responsibilities of home, but I also learned a pretty good lesson, as well. I need to write for my audience, be it an Audience of One or one day an audience of millions.

I’m not sure what the spiritual significance of this might be in your life and why I felt I should include this in my Lent 2016 series.  But here’s a verse to go along with it: Ephesians 2:10 – For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Oh,and here’s my masterpiece, based on the original Starry Charleston at For the Love of Art. And if you’d like to see the rest of the class paintings, follow this link (I’m there with my friends in the gallery).