Why I’m entering the Damn Fine Words scholarship contest and why you should too.

What caught me was the word, glee in the scholarship post. I’ve admired writers all my life and secretly wanted to be one for the past two decades. But knowing the time and work required to perfect a craft and feeling dis-confident I held back. After all, I write ok – good enough for checks and grocery lists.

But glee! Now, that is an emotion I can get behind. That’s an emotion I want to feel. I know I’ll feel it when the words are right, when I’ve expressed something in a way that will reach you, the reader, when I think you’ll feel glee as well. It’s way different than mere delight. It’s the unselfconscious pleasure and joy of untainted childhood. That’s something we’ve all felt. That’s something we can all strive to reclaim. That’s pure joy in the act of creation. That’s what we feel in the studio, or hope to.

Boy drawing a cowboy on a wall at Essex Street, Dublin.
Boy drawing a cowboy on a wall at Essex Street, Dublin.

And of course that’s what this blog is about – keeping your butt in the studio (or the seat) and creating day in and day out. When you feel like it and when you don’t. So I’m entering James Chartrand’s Damn Fine Words contest for people who wish to improve their writing. Check it out at Men with Pens.

“Why should I care,” you’re thinking? “I’m not a writer,” you say. Well, I’m not either-I’m a painter. But here’s why you need to learn to write well.

In the olden days, when people were largely illiterate, paintings and sculpture were a means of capturing history, conveying lessons, and telling stories. People couldn’t read the Bible but they could ‘read’ church icons or the mosaics in the Florence Baptistry depicting the flames of hell.

But once Gutenberg democratized literature with his printing press all bets were off. Words became the dominating factor of our lives. We not only communicated face to face with them, but our our legacy could be conveyed through them in print. Images are still important but words function differently.Timeless books, photo by Lin Pernille Kristensen

Timeless books, photo by Lin Pernille Kristensen

As an artist you need your words.  You use them to help people understand your work, you use them to understand it yourself. You use them to explain, to convince, to cajole, to attract success. (OK, maybe not to cajole but I’m trying to sound literary here.)

You don’t want to write? Artist statements, grant applications, show notices, retreat applications, press releases – they are the oil in the wheel of your artistic career. If you do them well, you’ll advance, and if you don’t, well…

And the better we write, the better we’ll read. The better we’ll be able to keep up with what is happening in our fields, to develop our own work and to be able to engage in critical dialogue.

Scrabble game in progress - photo courtesy thebarrowboy
Scrabble game in progress – photo courtesy thebarrowboy

So the reason I’m applying for the scholarship is to help me not only in my art career as a painter but also with this blog. I need to write well for all the reasons just mentioned, but I also need to be able to express myself confidently and quickly on this blog to convey my passion and my ideas about how to avoid the pitfalls and how to bridge that gap between study and professional practice, to help you and others like you become successful faster. I need to write better to talk about how to keep creating in the face of despair, about how to keep in touch with your passion for your work and why it’s important to allow your voice to be heard – because there’s only one you and no one else with your voice and if you don’t let us hear it we will all be poorer for it. And finally, I love words because they are the embodiment of thought. I need to write better because writing helps us to think better and it will help me to come up with and deliver better content for you.

Not feeling sure about my writing has held me back. It has caused me to loose time and confidence. It caused the delay of the launch of this blog even though I have more than a hundred ideas for blogposts. Do I second-guess myself each time I start to write for it? Yes, definitely. Would even half of those posts have already been posted if I were a more confident writer? Yes, for sure. Would I give up the passive voice for all time? Well, maybe not.

I’m determined to overcome this obstacle because what I have to say is important. If I were a more confident writer, I would be able to better serve you by sharing my ideas more freely, by making manifest my ideas and those of others through this blog.

How will my life change if I get it? The people that loved me before will still love me and those who were indifferent  still won’t care. But, for me it will make all the difference.

Like you, I’m trying to keep my butt in the studio as much as possible. I want to share my vision with the world through my painting, but I also need to share my vision through my wordsAnd I want damn fine words to do it with. So anything that helps me better share my artistic vision and my thoughts on this blog, that helps to do it faster and more effectively, is definitely worth doing. Improving my confidence, ability and speed in writing for this blog will, I have no doubt, spill over into creating more confidence, ability and speed in my painting career.

Creating better content for this blog will allow me to spend  less time on uncertain teaching gigs and low paying part time work. I have a gabillion plans for eBooks and eCourses and free information and Heckleberry Jenn and I are planning a podcast that will help you in your efforts to build a thriving studio practice and in your quest to establish yourself as a successful artist. Writing this blog enables me to continue a mentorship role from my teaching work, while building a more constant and certain base to work from. Writing well will help me get there.

With this post I’m trying for the scholarship and hoping I’ll get it even though the chances may be akin to those of the lottery. But in the end the only thing we control is the “try”. So posting this means I’ve already succeeded (but keep your fingers crossed for me anyway!)

So do it. Enter the scholarship contest with me because Damn Fine Words will help your art career.