I used to paint — nothing fancy or ground breaking, just the occasional watercolour copy of an old postcard or photograph. Why did I stop? My job took up too much of my time and energy, there wasn’t enough space at home to leave my art things lying around, I wasn’t skilled enough… All valid reasons to put my paints away for a bit.
Except ‘a bit’ became ‘for good’. My friend Jennie, who’d joined an art class in her forties, created some smashing landscapes. “How’s your painting going?” she’d ask.
“It’s on hold at the moment,” I’d tell her. “I’m just too busy.”
The longer I left it “on hold”, the harder it was to see myself painting again. Ever.
A couple of years ago, I was given some tubes of acrylics, good quality, hardly used. This is the catalyst I need, I told myself. But still I didn’t paint, still left my sketchbooks and paper, paints and brushes in a stack of crates and boxes. Untouched.
What was I afraid of? Why had I lost my nerve? I’d look at pictures I painted thirty-odd years ago and wonder, Did I really do that? How did I know how to capture the texture of that brickwork? Where did I learn how to get the shadows falling right?
More crucially, What makes me think I can ever do it again?
When my job disappeared and I moved to a bigger house, some of my excuses disappeared too. But still I didn’t paint, because I was so sure I was going to mess it up.
And then I unearthed those tubes of acrylics. Certain they must have dried up, I decided to test them before chucking them away. Goodness, they were still all right! I tried them out, not bothered about what I was painting, intent only on proving to myself there was no point keeping them.
Yet, clumsy as my first brushstrokes were, I began to enjoy myself. The more I painted, the easier it became. I discovered that, with a spot more water, the acrylic became more workable. I’d started off with daubing for fun, but now I could create the illusion of a stand of trees, a falling hillside, a mysterious pool.
The finished painting is a bit of a mish mash, and Van Gogh can sleep easy, but I did it!
Writing’s like that — you’re afraid to start or to go back to it, you don’t know where to begin, you can’t believe your writing is good enough. Don’t worry about any of that. Writing is simply thinking on paper or on a screen. Once you’ve got a bit of it down, you can shape it, scrap it, cut it or extend it — the key thing is, you’ve got something to work with.
The best time to write is NOW, even if you don’t feel you’re ready. Once you’ve made a start, you’ll begin to enjoy it, you’ll be creating something unique that no one else can write for you. No excuses!
What are you afraid of?
© Nikki Copleston November 2021