• Drawn Into Writing

    Posted Posted by Guest Writer in WBN News & Events     Comments 5 comments

    In school, I was one of those annoying overachievers who excelled at almost everything she tried (except sports, but that’s a blog post for a different day). I did well in all my non-P.E. classes. I was a pretty good cellist. And everyone knew I loved to write.

    But I was terrible at art. Whenever I’d try to draw something, I’d quickly give up, overwhelmed and frustrated that I couldn’t make the images on the paper look like the images in my head.

    A few years ago, my friend Pat told me she was teaching a class at the Austin Museum of Art called Draw Your Dog. She assured me that it was for all skill levels, and that I’d have fun. So, even though I could barely sketch a stick figure, I signed up for the class.

    Today, I’m taking my fourth class with Pat: Bird Illustration for Beginners. My drawing skills have improved considerably, even though my artwork never quite looks like the item it’s supposed to be. And I’m amazed at how similar the process of drawing is to the process of writing. For example:

    • When I start a drawing, I base the lines in relation to one another, not to what I imagine the object looks like. Let’s say I’m drawing one of my dogs, starting with her right ear. I have to focus on one line at a time and how they all spatially relate to each other, without getting stressed about whether or not the drawing actually looks like my dog’s ear. The same goes for the initial stages of writing. Even if I have an outline, I have to focus on one little part of the story at a time, without getting overwhelmed at how it doesn’t yet look like a fully finished novel.


    • I have to pick and choose what I sketch. I can’t draw every single hair on my dog’s head. I can’t map out every feather of every bird. I focus on the most prominent ones and on creating texture rather than striving for perfection. Likewise, a lot of what I write gets trimmed out as I revise and edit, thus giving more importance and strength to what remains.


    • Learning to effectively shade and smudge is essential. It gives drawings depth. But too much can make artwork look like one giant smear of charcoal and color. I see nuanced conflict, flawed characters, and interesting descriptions in the same way: they can make a story intriguing, but overuse can turn things into a mess.


    Surely I’m not the only person who finds drawing — or any other creative art — to be similar to writing. What about you? Are you fluent in drawing, painting, sculpture, or music? Do you find that your non-writing creative expression has shaped how you view writing, or even how you write? Or does it overwhelm and frustrate you, too?


    When she’s not revising her first trilogy of YA novels, hugging her rescued dogs, or playing “Rock Band” with her husband, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt writes for her blog ThatsAGirlsCar.com. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Harvard University and a Master’s in Information Studies from UT-Austin. A native Texan, she grew up in McAllen but has called Austin home for over a decade.

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    David Duhr

    These sound like some great classes. The best part? No hands. I cannot (CANNOT) draw a human hand.

    Were you reading us back during our “Writings From a Past Life” series? Some good artwork in there. (Including Hobart the Robotfly: https://www.writebynight.net/writings-from-a-past-life/wfpl-the-flying-whale/).

    Really, though, writing is my only creative outlet. I can’t draw, can’t carry a tune (or play one). I used to paint houses. Does that count?


    Hands are very difficult to draw. So are feet. I drew my Converse really well once, but that’s it.

    I remember some of my personal rules for drawing / coloring when I was very very young — things like, the ground is always green, and the top of the paper must be blue because that’s where the sky goes. Grass and sky had to be represented because there was the assumption they’d be in every picture. But I haven’t drawn anything against grass or sky since I was in kindergarten. I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there somewhere.


    I absolutely agree, but in a much different way. My writing/drawing process hardly resembles what you’ve described. I almost never plan anything (probably to my own detriment). I usually don’t even know what I’m going to draw and/or write until my hands touch pencil or keyboard. But both processes are extremely chaotic for me. It’s a constant ebb and flow. I start out stream of consciousness, and everything pours out until the stream is too thick and muddy with nonsense and then I actually start thinking. I try and limit my thinking though, as I can get WAY too obsessive… Read more »


    I think I might be the only writer in the world for whom alcohol is a writing inhibitor, not enhancer. I don’t write or blog when drunk. Ever. I don’t like loosening my control on words.

    I can’t write without coffee, though. We all have our vices.


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