Drawing and Writing

 paint brushes in a can

As an insane person who wishes to do both and die horribly from when the apocalypse make all artistic skill completely useless for survival or just from lack of medical insurance, I am finding that both skills have a lot of similarities.


You Must Allow Yourself to Suck at First

This is the first thing I ever noticed when I decided to go back into drawing and immersed myself with artists of way higher caliber than me. The first advice I got was to make it okay to suck at first. When sketching, let it be okay that the first line isn’t perfect, the same way we writers are told to let it be okay when our first draft sucks.

Of course, this could be said for any new skill, but for art and writing, it makes them even more similar because of…


The Dreaded White Page

We sit in front of the computer and either it’s Word or Painter or a notebook or a sketchbook, the blank page is the first obstacle, the first hurdle of the day. I know for me, as a writer, I take AGES to start. Hell, this blog post took forever. In the end, I just start writing the first thing that comes to my mind without any filter about if it’s good, and work for there.

This is true for art as well. You just put it there. No thinking—or at least not too much—should be allowed or necessary. I believe this is the cause for most artist/writer’s block: when you want to do something good when you should just do.


Getting into the Zone

Again, I think this is the same with all creative skills. The Zone. The place where the Muse lives and plays and throws a party. Where you glance at the clock and realize 6 hours have gone by and you barely realize or care you’re starving and your whole body hurts.

All that matters is the glorious thing brought into existence by your mortal hands.

That Zone.

Yeah. It’s hard getting into that Zone. And for both artists and writers, it seems the solution is exactly the same. Don’t wait for the zone to come, just make a routine and stick to it till it learns to show up when it’s supposed to.


Choose Your Medium

For Artists, we have Graphite, Charcoal, Pastels, Colored Pencils, Acrylics, Watercolor, Oil, Pen, Marker, etc.  We have traditional, digital, canvas, paper, newsprint, etc. We have Fine Art, Concept Art, Illustration, Sequential Art, Storyboarding, Sketching, etc. We have Still Life, Environments, Figures, Characters, Animals, Life Studies, Master Studies, etc.

For Writers, we have Pen, Pencil, Paper, Napkin, Typewriter (Hey I bought one even in this day and age, yes I am a lunatic), Laptop, iPad, etc. We have Poetry, Flash Fiction, Short Stories, Novellas, Novels, Trilogies, Series, Screenplays, etc. We have Literary, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-fi, Thriller, etc (this all goes for art too actually).

The point is…the options are endless for both Artists and Writers when it comes to how to practice their craft.


Master the Software

Artists have Corel Painter, Photoshop, Manga Studio, etc. Writers have Word, Scrivener, Final Draft, etc.

There is what most professionals use, what the aspiring ones use, and everything in between. Testing them out and learning how to use the program is something we both deal with (though I have a feeling it’s a whole lot harder for the artist).

For the record, I use Word and distraction free software (FocusWriter) to write, and Photoshop for art.


Literary vs Genre. Fine vs Entertainment

Now, I actually don’t know much about art. But I do notice that art seems to be mainly divided into Fine Art and Entertainment/Commercial Art.

This is very similar to how fiction writing seems to be largely divided into Literary Fiction and Genre/Commercial Fiction.

I like both in both industries. I LOVE old-school oil paintings depicting Greek mythology or bible stories. I also love the art in most anime and manga.

I prefer Genre Fiction, especially fantasy and sci-fi. But I’ve also enjoyed pure, straight up Literary Works I was “forced” to read in school.

A good story is a good story, and good art is good art.  It can be a bit subjective and approaches are different, and there will be haters as well as lovers, but in the end, it makes things interesting for everybody.


Different Areas to Strengthen

For Art, you study proportions, anatomy, perspective, color, values, digital painting, etc.

For Fiction, you study voice, character, description, plot, tension/suspense, dialogue, etc.

When you sit down to work on a piece of art or a work of fiction, all these things are important and so you take time to strengthen each area to become a better writer or artist.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

This applies to every skill, but even more so with writers and artists. You get better with how many hours or words you clock in. Artists may need more hours than writers (but that’s just me because I can write a whole lot faster than I can draw). Point is…Do the work, Improve the work.


The Work is Never Finished, Just Submitted

I love this one. This is my most favorite (and sometimes most hated) aspect of being a creative individual. You can never run out of ideas. There is no set amount of ideas that will run out like a chicken laying eggs. There’s a different way of doing a story or a picture, a different angle and different tone. And just because it’s different, doesn’t make it wrong, which makes it even harder to decide.

The point is both artists and writers are rarely completely satisfied with their work. They don’t finish, they just pick a point to stop and get it out there.


Submission Process is a BITCH

From what I’ve heard in an interview with artist Brad Rigney (my rolemodel when it comes to this art goal of mine), finding work as an artist is just as hard and annoying as finding work as a writer.  Both are encouraged to have websites, body of work, and connections (well this helps every profession). But most importantly, your skill must be top notch, regardless of education and this is true for both professions.

Another reason why I like them so much, since, ya know…the college thing didn’t work out. Heh.


Say Goodbye to Free Time

To be successful in either career, you must sacrifice every single iota of your social life and free time to improve your skill and create something someone might want to pay you for. This doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t let up. EVER. The end.

Okay, I may be wrong. But I’ve yet to hear of a successful professional artist or writer who isn’t a workaholic who works something like 50 hours a week and takes no vacations.

If someone hears of a writer and artist who works when they want and take year-long vacations, please let me know so I can stalk them till I learn all their secrets… Mwahahah!



Does anyone else know of any other similarities between art and writing? Is there another profession that is strangely similar


5 thoughts on “Drawing and Writing

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  1. Hey Amber, The Kelvinator from the Brent Weeks forum here. I’ve read like the first page of your recent posts since you sent me a message through the forum.

    While reading that latest one, I was, oddly enough, struck mainly by the similarities with hockey, and, I guess any other sport. You’re always going to have a bit of trouble if you’re inexperienced (or even haven’t played in a while), and “The Dreaded White Page” is incredibly similar to the need sometimes to “relax on your skills” and just focus on doing the right things without thinking too much about them.

    We talk about “The Zone” in hockey too. It’s when everything you touch turns to gold, and you can somehow manage to do things you’d never have a chance of normally. You find yourself making impossible shots/passes, perfect tackles, knowing where the balls going to be passed before the person with the ball does, that kind of thing.

    There’s not much of a parallel in terms of medium or genre, the closest thing to choosing your medium would be stick selection, which generally takes between half an hour and an hour (minimum), assuming you ‘try before you buy.’ Genre would be what sort of approach you’re going to take to the game, I guess. Whether you turn up on the weekend, have a hit around, and then go home, or whether you train twice a week, as well as doing some practice and fitness work of your own at home. Then somewhere between the two is position. Are you going to play goalkeeper, fullback, halfback, inner, centreforward, or wing? Then each position has it’s own questions. If you’re a fullback, you have to decide what type of fullback. Are you a tagging fullback, or a sweeper? Aggressive or defensive?

    Software is one we don’t have.

    There are so many areas to strengthen in hockey. Trapping, passing (pushing, slapping, or hitting), shots at goal (hitting, flicking, deflections), dribbling, dragging, tackling, awareness, fitness, etc. And all of these can always be better, and can only be improved by practice.

    Each game finishes. But after each game, there’s another one. And at the end of the season, you’ve still got the next one. Likewise, you’re skills are never perfect. You can always push things to the next level, make yourself that little bit better.

    There’s an easy parallel between submission process and the selection process for say, a state squad or something for hockey. I tried out for a couple of those in juniors, and it was painful.

    And finally, if you want to be the best hockey player you can, you will have no life whatsoever. Luckily for me, I’m nowhere near that dedicated =P.
    Well, that was long, wasn’t it? Nearly done now though.

    – Tim.

    P.S. I had no idea whatsoever you were black/African American/whatever until I read your “Princess and the Frog” rant. I’m sure that says something about something, but I’m not sure what exactly.

    1. It means girls with the name Amber are usually white. Well, that’s how I always felt. It’s okay.

      Wow. That’s pretty awesome. I never really thought of Hockey that way. I also never knew there were that many similarities.

      Good luck with it. I always thought being an athlete would be so cool, but it never happened. In another life perhaps.

      1. I never thought of it that way either until you started talking about the zone.

        I’m not that hugely into hockey. I go to most of the twice-a-week training sessions and play on the weekends, but I don’t do any extra work. I could hardly be described as an athlete, nor would I really want to be (especially in hockey). I’m not playing at a particularly high level, and there’s no money in hockey at any level anyway (unless you’re in the European league, which is basically the Dutch league with a few other clubs).

  2. My mom’s a painter and I have several songwriter friends, so I think about this a lot. It really amazes me how much writing advice applies to other arts too (or seems like it would, anyway). I think you hit some of the biggest ones with “practice, practice, practice” and “the work is never finished” and “submission process is a bitch.”

    Other similarities that come to mind:
    1. Coming up with titles is way harder than it ought to be.
    2. So many different nitpicky rules to keep straight, and you’re supposed to somehow obey them all, while pouring your soul on the paper at the same time.
    3. So tempting to compare yourself with others and get discouraged.
    4. It’s as much about what you remove as what you add.
    5. Hours and hours (and hours) of work, all for those brief, beautiful moments of transcendence. And somehow, it’s all still worth it.

    1. I totally agree with your added points, especially number 2. It’s so frustrating when you try to follow everyone’s advice and please everyone and STILL keep your voice/style.

      Number 3 too, definitely.

      But of course it’s all worth it. I always say we creatives are just masochists.

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