In this post, writing coach/teacher Len Leatherwood reflects on some artful lessons she’s learned from masters of their craft.
On our vacation, Ray and I spent the afternoon at the Tate Modern in London.
I go into an art museum with an inquiring mind. I am there to experience the art, but also to learn what I can read about the artist and his/her techniques, point-of-view, historical perspective, etc. Some museums are better at providing this information than others; the Tate Modern is excellent regarding this educational aspect. For example, I wandered into a room where the focus was on the studio of the artist and here are a few examples of what I saw and learned:
Why is this important, you may ask? Because not only do I see an everyday scene from 1915, but I also learn that Bonnard valued painting intimate parts of his life. As a writer, this helps me to see the benefit in writing about the little things in my life, which reflect what is important to me.
Here is another:
Here is Picasso’s studio in 1955. I learned that Picasso created twelve different paintings of this studio over the time he lived there, helping me to see that you can use the same subject matter over and over and view it each time from a different perspective. As a writer, it’s easy to dismiss the idea of repeating a story or a memory because you’ve “already told that one.” Picasso’s repetition of the same material helps me to see that I can learn from looking at a story or memoir piece from different angles to expose other layers of truth.
Here’s one more:
Matisse did this same bronze four times over his lifetime, reflecting his different perspective as he aged. This helps me to understand the value of exploring different parts of my life at different times in my life. What I created at twenty may look very different from what I may create in my sixties. No better, no worse. There is freedom in that realization for me. Sometimes I think, “There’s no reason to rehash that,” which may be true in some cases when the subject feels resolved. However, there are other topics where venturing back down that path may indeed bring fruitful results since time and experience may offer an awareness I previously could not have attained.
These art museum forays are a way for me to commune not just with the art, but also with the artists. To learn from his/her process and to open my heart and mind to guidance that comes from their wisdom. I left the Tate Modern feeling more heartened about my writing than I have felt in a long time. As if I had been given a pep talk by the likes of Bonnard, Picasso and Matisse, only to mention a few.
I am now back in LA and ready to go to work on my writing.