The Same, But Different

by Julie, enjoying fall in Somerville

I have two sisters. One lives a couple of towns (actually small cities) over. The other lives in Maryland. My Maryland sister comes up to visit every two to three months to see our parents. The sisters always have at least one night of sister time, and this time we decided to do something different. We went to Muse Paintbar. There’s a bar, and food. And for two hours everyone there is coached to create a painting somewhat like the model painting the teacher is using. We mixed paints, listened to directions, got feedback, and painted. We all agreed not to look at each other’s paintings until the end.

The unveiling was eye opening. The paintings were all the same, but different.

Mine is the one on the left. Not a great painting, but I love it. I also love the work my sisters did.

As I was painting, I couldn’t help but think about the creative process of writing. First of all, even though we had the same model painting, and the same directions, the three of us went in different directions. The same can happen with writing. If the Wickeds all had the same writing prompt, you’d read six very different stories. That’s part of the creative process. Everyone’s work is unique. And that’s wonderful.

The other thing I thought about was how much perfectionism gets in the way of creativity. My youngest sister had trouble letting go of doing it “right” at the beginning of the night. I was dismayed by my stars and swirls. But when we both let go, and had fun, we found our way. The same happens when I write. The first draft is always dreck, but I know how to fix that. When the characters get in the way of doing what I had planned for them I keep going. Maybe they have a better idea. More likely, they want to add depth to the story by letting me in on some backstory.

If I let perfectionism get in the way, I’d never finish a book. If I let perfectionism get in the way, I wouldn’t have shown you a picture of my painting. Finding the joy in creativity means letting go of perfectionism.

Painting at Muse also reminded me of one more lesson from my writing life. Working in community is magical. For National Novel Writing Month, Sister in Crime has four write-ins a day, seven days a week. Anyone can join the write-ins this month. (Sign up here.) I know this sounds odd, but sitting at my computer knowing there are others doing the same thing is a powerful motivator to sit down and write. Being in a room full of people having fun painting is also powerful. Community really matters.

I may tweak my painting a bit before I hang it up, but I’m going to hang it up. It’s a memory of a wonderful night with my sisters. And a great reminder to let go of perfectionism and enjoy the creative process.

Readers, have you ever enjoyed something outside of your comfort zone?

27 Thoughts

  1. What a lovely post, Julie – and how fun that you three make sure you get sisters time. I would love a painting evening with my sisters if we didn’t live in far-flung points on the continent.

    It’s stretching my brain in a different way than art, but I am loving my in-person Spanish class this fall.

  2. Julie, Van Gogh would be proud of you and your sisters and your Starry Night paintings. Your paintings are very different and perhaps reflect where you are in your lives or your personalities or whatever it is that makes each of you…YOU! Thanks for sharing your fun time with your sisters.

  3. Having never considered myself a performer, which means being the one on display in front of others, I had resisted for a while when a dear professional clown told us to get behind the grease paint. How could I put myself in the spotlight? What did I have to offer? I hadn’t studied for this! Our friend eventually won out and I can tell you it was a blast. In fact, we were clowns for over a decade (mostly on vacations when we traveled to meet up with our friend) and loved it.

    Found out how fun and freeing it was to not be recognized. I could do things silly or for the first time, but no one knew it was me so if I missed up who would know. As a clown, if you skip a step or fumble, folks just figure it’s part of the act. You learn it’s not about “you”, but the person in front of you, which is a great lesson to take into regular life. And oh the smiles and laughter were better for the soul than money in the back! It was a time (over a decade) that we look back on fondly and smile. Would I do it again – in a heart beat if I were able!

    So I say, get the nerve and try something new, something out of your comfort zone. You may be surprised at the joy it brings you and what do you have to lose in the process – a lot less than you think and mostly just the fear of trying.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Kay, another facet of your personality. I love learning more about you with your wonderful contributions to the blog.

      “You learn it’s not about “you”, but the person in front of you, which is a great lesson to take into regular life.” I love this. So true, especially if you are being of service. Which performing is.

  4. I love all the paintings, Julie! Brava!
    A few years ago, my wife and I visited New York City. While there, we went to the top of the Empire State Building. I don’t like heights, so I was content to enjoy the views from inside. It took some coaxing from Nancy, but I eventually joined her on the outdoor observation deck. And, despite my knocking knees, it was so worth it! Comfort zone officially stepped out of!

  5. I love the paintings, Julie. Without going into a ton of details, I feel a little on the edge of my comfort zone now. I’m not sure I like it – but I’m not sure I want to step away, either.

  6. Many moons ago I discovered that I was good at drawing with charcoal. I made a portrait of my son, which I proudly display in my home office. I am also getting better and better at baking, which I have learned is a science project indeed! I liked all the comments, that prove that we have no limits (except for speed limits 🙂 Luis at ole dot travel

    1. Drawing with charcoal is such a wonderful art form. So glad you display your picture of your son. I used to bake a lot, and haven’t for a while, but have started back and really love it. I also need to get rid of the baked goods, which is a wonderful excuse to see people.

  7. What lovely paintings and sister time is the best. I love how you compare it to the writing process. I need to sign up for the write-ins. What a wonderful thing to do for the writing community!

  8. I love this, Julie. My sisters and I used to meet up once a year for a sisters’ weekend. Such good memories.

  9. I’ve pushed my limits for most of my life. It’s frustrating that I am no longer able physically to “test” myself like I used to. I guess the biggest step outside my comfort zone was climbing almost to the top of a mast on a tall ship. Couldn’t bring myself to quite get to the top. I’m not particularly afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling, or more specifically of landing! I still can’t believe I did that.

    1. That sounds terrifying and amazing. A few years ago I had a chance to climb all the way up in a church clocktower, and I made it most of the way, but couldn’t bear the last vertical ladder. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get down.

  10. As an example of how the Wickeds would all come up with something different if given the same prompt, just look at the Opening Lines posts that happen every so often. Each one is very unique while still picking up on details from the same picture.

    Those painting are all great, too.

  11. To some degree I have. I have to say that I was happy when it was over. I am not one who likes large crowds or being with a lot of people. It makes me exhausted. By being in a wheelchair, there is no easy way to get around. When the spaces are tight, it is challenging. Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  12. I’ve taken a paint night class as well and really struggled making it my own. I kept comparing it to the teacher’s painting and everyone else’s. In the end, I really liked my painting and ended up taking a few more paint night classes. aprilbluetx at yahoo dot com

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