Who would have thought that the act of painting and decorating would serve as inspiration to my writing activities? However, I discovered it to be a great metaphor for writing as well as offering a number of lessons not only to the aspiring author, but anyone seeking to reach a certain level of achievement in their respective endeavours.
I took a break away from my daily writing activities for a couple of weeks to decorate the main bedroom in our house in France. The house has been our renovation project for some time now. The bedroom was nearly completed, save for decorating after the builders had done the final work on insulating the ceilings and pointing up the old stonework. The completion of the bedroom was very much my project and I looked forward to putting the final touches to it such as curtains and bedding once the painting was done.
It was a mammoth task and it took a lot more effort than I had anticipated, especially with creaking knees and stamina not as robust as when I was younger. As ever, projects of this nature demand more time than initially envisaged, especially in old properties as hidden challenges emerge as the work progresses. It is also a large room with very high ceilings and old beams and balancing myself together with paint tin, roller and brushes on tall ladders required physical stamina and creative acrobatics.
A few days into the project when it dawned on me that it was going to be a much greater challenge than I had first anticipated, I groaned with despair as I looked around the room realizing what the decorating of it was going to entail. At that point my resolve faltered and just before deciding to give up and employ the services of a decorator, I was reminded of the words of wisdom by my ski instructor many, many years ago.
When, for the first time, I found myself at the top of a black run I looked down at the steep mountain and seriously questioned my sanity. There I was perched on the side of a mountain desperately trying to imitate the agility of a mountain goat. I was overwhelmed with a gripping fear and any confidence I might have gained in my skiing abilities, simply vanished. Clinging on for dear life, fighting the paralysis that threatened to immobilize my muscles, my ski instructor firmly told me not to look down the mountain, but to look ahead instead, focusing on the next turn. Surprisingly it worked and eventually I found myself at the bottom of the run and when looking back up towards the steep mountain slope I had successfully traversed, I was very grateful that I was alive to tell the tale.
When looking around the bedroom with its high ceilings, crisscrossing beams, nurturing aching muscles and blisters, I had a similar sinking feeling at the enormity of the task ahead. The words of my ski instructor of all those years ago echoed in my mind. With the same approach, I focused on one roller and one brush stroke at a time and ignoring the totality of the task. The same advice that got me down my first black run as a young skier inspired me to eventually complete the challenge of the decorating I had so enthusiastically embarked on.
While focusing on the task at hand, I reflected on the wisdom of my instructor’s advice and realised that it was equally as applicable to the task of writing. When I face the daunting task of any writing project, I sometimes find myself overwhelmed with the enormity of the task and questioning how I could possible find the words to fill the required pages. Many times during the process of writing, my resolve and self-belief will waiver. At some stage the critical voice will come onto the scene, chastising me for imagining that I was capable of writing a blog, article or book on the particular subject. Furthermore, even if I managed to do so, who would actually be interested in reading it? In the same way, by focusing on the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next page and then the next chapter, the blog, article or book is eventually finished.
Continuing with my musings I thought about the romantic idea that assumes success in any endeavor, whether as a writer, decorator or any other challenge we set ourselves, will just happen because we want it. Success takes effort and determination to keep going when there appears to be no rewards and you find your energy and resolve weakening as a result. This is especially true when all your efforts do not seem to lead to any form of success for a very long time.
I conclude with the wisdom offered by Thomas Edison who said that success is the result of 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration. Success in any endeavour including that of writing takes not only talent, but also commitment and many years of hard work, honing the skills that will eventually result in mastery.