Clash McCoy

Musing from your Post Master General

How painting my apartment made me a better writer.

Farbroller

I was looking through my emails today when I stumbled upon some notes I made to a friend.  The notes dated back to the first week I was in the apartment of which I live in now.  While reading them over, I realized that I can say with full conviction that I am a better writer today than I was one year and three months ago.  It wasn’t so much the quality of the email that made me come to this conclusion, but it was more the subject matter.  I had written to my friend about the task of painting the walls of my new dwelling and hinted how it could possibly make me a better at my favorite craft.  In retrospect I was right, and it has to do with the three P’s I learned during the tedious task of nesting, patience, perseverance, and pride.

A large part of my growth has had to do with the simple cause and affect that happens when I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard rather.   The more I write, the more it becomes second nature to me.  I never struggled with creativity.  For as long as I can remember I enjoyed telling stories and testing the waves of human emotion.

It was the physical act of writing I struggled with.  Writing, like any art, or any job for that matter, takes patience, effort and time.  In the fast paced world of instant gratification that I grew up in, patience was not something I was accustomed to. Even today I struggle with it sometimes. The fact that at any moment I can send a message to anyone in the world I know and get a response back instantly is a far cry from the times when correspondence took weeks, if not months.

Sometimes I yearn for those days of true letter writing.  Sure there is email but unfortunately for myself, my electronic pen pal relationships always end up souring fast. I get excited when I receive an email from an old friend but soon after I read their message, they remember why they stopped emailing me in the first place.  I have so much on my mind at a given moment that I usually write a friend back within the hour, if not sooner.  I can’t help it. If I have something to say and I want to say it, I usually say it, or type it in this case. I don’t want other emotions and experiences to corrupt my feelings.  I like telling people how I feel at the time of reading their words.

Of course, at the pace I set, I’m hard to keep up with.  My actions kill the romance of emails as they end up devolving into a series of what are essentially really long text messages.  I come off as a freak with no life and a spectrum disorder, which probably isn’t too far from the truth.  My writing habits would fit better in the times of the Pony Express. There was a forced period of reflection and pause back then due to the amount of from time it took from stamp to mailbox.  You had not choice but to be patient.

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I was plagued by a lack of patience in more ways than one when it came to my creative writing.  First, as it relates to my email writing, I thirsted for instant gratification.  When I was given deadlines in school, I made sure to do my assignments the night before.  For some people this is a bad idea but for me, it has always worked out.  I felt as though I could only properly devout my attention to a particular subject in one sitting.  I was once again afraid of the corruption of outside forces on my brain.  Also, there was something about the satisfaction of handing it in right after I finished the last word.  While this sounds contrary to my letter writing as I didn’t do my assignments right away, it was never about getting it done.  With both my emails and my school work, it was about having it read and making sure the reader was in touch with my most current thoughts.

The second struggle with patience I had was the fact that I hated the concept revising.  If you haven’t already noticed, I am a poor speller and my grammar can be suspect at times. So, I was always forced to check my spelling and sentences but these simple revisions were all about the superficial. Rarely did I tweak with content.  I figured the best things I had to say were already in black and white.  Any over thinking would just sully my flow.  I couldn’t fathom writing complete drafts and than starting from scratch with a second and third version of a piece.  Frankly, I was lazy.  I did not want to put in the time and effort to see a vision though.  I wanted my visions to be powerful yet momentary.

This lack of perseverance to see my vision from its infant stages to final completion plagued me when I first starting writing creatively.  Often my characters were underdeveloped and weak as I had not taken out the time to properly flush them.  When I started writing, I had no idea whether I would be writing a short story of a novel.  Often I would ramble on, losing site of my goals.  Some people who read this blog might think I still suffer from this problem but trust me, it was much worse.

I did not care much for spelling, grammar and structure.  I figured that if I was creative enough and the subject matter was strong, than people would understand what I was trying to say and disregard the minutia.  The very thought of that hinted at a lack of pride in work that carried my name on the top.  I value creativity and story over the middle school subjects but there is a reason they are taught to us at a young age, they are what holds all the good stuff together.  Still, if the wiser version of my self went back in time and talked to a version of myself of two or three years ago, the past Clash would not be convinced.  That was until he tasted his first bit of forced responsibility.

As I moved into the first apartment I had since college, I knew I needed to purchase furniture. Of course, being someone of moderate income in my twenties, I looked to ikea for much of my furnishing needs.  As you may know, most everything purchased at ikea needs to be assembled at home.  I’m embarrassed to say that in my college apartment I had also purchased many items from ikea but in that case my girlfriend at the time assembled everything for me.  She was more hands on than I was.  She seemed to enjoy doing it too. She was probably a lego kid.

I have never been a very handy person.  As a kid, I hated legos.  I dreamed of playing with the toys that appeared on the outside of the box, but I had no desire to follow the instructions and assemble for myself.  This continued into early adulthood as I always avoided stuff like the inter-working of car engines and assembling furniture.  It would be the furniture that would be my first test.

In my new apartment, the assembling was left up to me.  I dreaded this.  The anxiety from what was ahead caused me to have minor panic attacks.  I really didn’t know how I was going to do it.  I decided to take it slow.  I opened the box from the first item, pulled out the directions, and took them step by step.  Often I was tempted to skip ahead during parts that seemed obvious.  Whenever I did that, I would do something wrong.  I would have to undo my haste and start over.  Pretty soon I learned not to assume I knew what I was doing.  It took me a while to put everything together but when I did, I felt proud of my accomplishments, as if I was a carpenter who designed the table and cut it out of solid blocks of wood.  I know that is far from the truth, but for the curve I live on, it’s almost an equal accomplishment.

After I assembled the furniture, I felt like I could do anything.  My girlfriend and I had selected some paint at the Home Depot.  The entire apartment was a pale yellow color when we signed the lease.  It was fine enough for a hall way but too much for the bedroom and the living room.  The task of painting the living room was left up to me.  I had a lot of fears when I started painting.  I feared I would not be good at it.  I feared it would take too long but the ikea adrenaline was still pulsating through my veins.  I figured if I was going to tackle this task, it was going to be while riding my high.

I had very little experience when it came to painting.  What I had learned came from stuff my father had taught me when he would make my brother and I help him out with a project . The rest I learned from a very handy friend of mine whom my mother hired to paint the computer room of our house one weekend.  I had the knowledge but not the practice.

Everything starts with prep work and while this stage might not have a visual lasting impact, without it, your labor will be sloppy and all over the place.  In painting, the prep work is the preparing of the paints, the taping, and the laying of the drop cloth and such.  Then of course is the cutting, which is tedious but important.  Cutting is the painting of the edges of the wall flush against the tape using a brush.  This is needed in order to accomplish the next step more clean and neat.  Painting using the rollers game next.  It is the simplest and most visually effective step.  The best/worst part about painting is that you have to repeat the second two steps all over again for every coat your wall needs, on every wall that needs painting.  Sometimes before you can even start painting the color you want, you need to paint a layer of white primer for a nice even coat, adding yet another step.

If you have done everything right, your room turns into a place you could see yourself enjoying.  I painted the walls of the living room in a green because, as I noted in the email to the friend, “I like nature, and it looks great.”  But even greater than the color are the silly lessons I taught myself.  If you haven’t already caught on, all of these steps can be applied to almost anything, in my case, writing.  Sometimes I can get really frustrated with the prep work needed in writing.  I used to psych myself out with the idea of writing second and third drafts, but that kind of stuff is necessary, just like a second or third coat of paint is necessary.

Everything starts with prep work and while this stage might not have a visual lasting impact, without it, your labor will be sloppy and all over the place.  In painting, the prep work is the preparing of the paints, the taping, and the laying of the drop cloth and such.  Then of course is the cutting, which is tedious but important.  Cutting is the painting of the edges of the wall flush against the tape using a brush.  This is needed in order to accomplish the next step more clean and neat.  Painting using the rollers game next.  It is the simplest and most visually effective step.  The best/worst part about painting is that you have to repeat the second two steps all over again for every coat your wall needs, on every wall that needs painting.  Sometimes before you can even start painting the color you want, you need to paint a layer of white primer for a nice even coat, adding yet another step.

If you have done everything right, your room turns into a place you could see yourself enjoying.  I painted the walls of the living room in a green because, as I noted in the email to the friend, “I like nature, and it looks great.”  But even greater than the color are the silly lessons I taught myself.  If you haven’t already caught on, all of these steps can be applied to almost anything, in my case, writing.  Sometimes I can get really frustrated with the prep work needed in writing.  I used to psych myself out with the idea of writing second and third drafts, but that kind of stuff is necessary, just like a second or third coat of paint is necessary.

A view of my painted living room.

A view of my painted living room.In painting, as well as in writing, patience is so important.

Yes, when I rushed through assignments and turned them in just hours after I finished them, I usually received a good grade.  I knew this going on.  That’s part of the reason why I did it.  Certain writing assignments came natural to me.  However, if I ever want to write something of substance like a book or a stage play, there aren’t enough hours to finish something like that in a night.  In the real world, there aren’t always going to be appointed deadlines to back yourself up against.

In painting, as well as in writing, patience is so important.  Yes, when I rushed through assignments and turned them in just hours after I finished them, I usually received a good grade.  I knew this going on.  That’s part of the reason why I did it.  Certain writing assignments came natural to me.  However, if I ever want to write something of substance like a book or a stage play, there aren’t enough hours to finish something like that in a night.  In the real world, there aren’t always going to be appointed deadlines to back yourself up against.

There are some good things that come from time.  Time doesn’t always corrupt like I stated earlier.  Time can marinate thoughts and make them more profound or allow you the ability to fine tune your ideas and take them away from being a mindless ramble.  Certain momentary thoughts and feelings can actually hurt writing, with time you can get a better sense of which words are enduring, and which are frivolous.

That’s why perseverance to see your vision through no matter what setbacks come your way is just as paramount.  While I was painting, I missed a spot or two creating a bit of an uneven look.  This is something that happens when painting walls from time to time.  When I thought about it, if I was just as accepting that I was going to make mistakes in writing, I wouldn’t be so afraid to take chances.  The second coat and third coats are for fixing mistakes.  The second and third draft can be for seeing if the chances you took work.  Plus when it comes to mistakes, things can always be corrected before the finished project is submitted.  A good writer as well as a good painter has foresight like an Incan and is able to look over his or her mistakes and correct them before presenting their final work with the aid of time.

The thing that surprised me most at the time of my email is the pride I had in my recently painted walls.  I was so proud to say that I painted them.  When my father would make (mostly) my brother and I paint for him, we would rush the job because we hated doing it. It was only till I had my own place that I could understand that people will see these walls and associate them with me.  If they look sloppy and rushed, they will assume that I am sloppy and rushed, as well as they should.  And because of that, I tried to do a job that everyone could see that I was proud of.

Of course, some people are better painters than others. I am not Michelangelo.  An expert house painter would probably look at my walls and find many mistakes with my work.  That’s fine.  I don’t aspire to be a house painter.  If I did, I would paint more walls so I could get better.  Even still I might never be the best at it. I can only hope to be serviceable in that field. Writing comes more natural to me, but by no means should that as a crutch to substitute for hard work.  Just because writing I write better than I paint, doesn’t mean I’m a good writer.  Even if I were blessed with the skills of a genius (of which I am not), genius takes hard work to hone.  Any visitor to Florence would tell you that even the great Michelangelo had many “drafts” of his David.

 

 

A hallway of abandoned David "drafts" on the way to Michelangelo's masterpiece in Florence, Italy.

A hallway of abandoned David “drafts” on the way to Michelangelo’s masterpiece in Florence, Italy.

What I am proud of most today is that the feelings I felt a year or so ago still resonate with me today.  I took the lessons I learned and applied them to my passion.  Because of this, my writing is better today than it has ever been and I can only hope that it will continue to get better.  The notion that it takes patience, perseverance, and pride to accomplish your goals is not a novel concept but my understanding of these and how they applied to my writing was a crucial part of my maturity.  I’m happy to know that I’m getting somewhere. If we can’t be happy with our personal progress, than what can we be happy with?

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your Thursday everyone.

-Clash Out

photos courtesy of squidoo.com, wikicommons

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted on October 24, 2013 by in Musings and tagged , , .
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