“The thing has already taken form in my mind before I start it.”
“The first attempts are absolutely unbearable.”
“I say this because I want you to know that if you see something worthwhile in what I am doing, it is not by accident but because of real direction and purpose.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Amazing! Gaze at Vincent’s glorious paintings, with their sometimes joyous, sometimes somber splashes of color and it’s easy to be transported. Sometimes their bold, almost violent brush strokes look like the product of a moment of inspiration. Sometimes, like the aftermath of a struggle.
But Vincent himself tells us that, joyous or somber, he had a vision in mind when he started a painting – that it had already “taken form” in his mind’s eye before he took action and picked up his brush.
And like any creative, he struggled to capture that vision – always falling short. So much so that his first attempts were “absolutely unbearable.” We all know that feeling, don’t we? That sense that we have an idea, a vision, we want to share, but that when we try to catch it and put it on the page, it falls short – it doesn’t work. It feels wrong. Clumsy. Absolutely awful. We want to give up. Do something easier. Let it go. Surrender.
And yet. Look at Vincent! despite these feelings of discouragement, of fall short, of not being equal to the vision he wants to bring to life, he persists. He struggles. He strives. He makes mistakes. He goes on. He doesn’t give in or give up.
Why? Probably because his vision won’t let him. It hovers, just out of reach, calling him.
But also, because his craft saves him. He knows that anything that he does that’s “worthwhile” done by “accident,” but because of “real direction and purpose.” He brings intention and attention to the work at hand. He may be floundering, but he can find his way because he has direction, he has purpose – he has his craft to rely on to propel him forward, to move him closer toward his goal, his vision.
We have the same tool: craft. We may feel just as Vincent does, that our vision is elusive. And that our first attempts to catch and share it are lame and terrible. But, if, like Vincent, we push past those feelings, we too, will find our direction and purpose. And they will see us through. Bravo, Vincent! And now, emboldened and encouraged, let’s all write on!
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