Do you have a vision of the type of writer or artist you wish to be? Perhaps you’re confident that you’ve found your voice and all of your work flows from that certainty. Or maybe you’re still wrestling with the kind of work you want to produce.
I’ve always loved horror novels and for years I struggled with whether I should write horror or something more general. It’s not that I think a writer can’t do more than one thing, simply that it takes so much energy and persistence to write a novel that, for me, it wouldn’t have been practical to do both. In the end, I did write a horror novel of sorts, but I placed the manuscript in my creative bottom drawer and I have no intention of doing anything with it. I love to read horror and to watch horror movies, but in terms of writing it, I don’t think that’s where my calling lies. Instead, I write stories that don’t fall into a genre, but always contain a touch of mystery or magic, and that fits perfectly with my vision of myself as a writer.
What I’m less certain of, is my vision of myself as an artist. For the past few months, I’ve painted portraits – some of animals, some of humans. I have form. When I was a child I drew endless portraits. When people visited or we visited them, there I’d be with my pencil and sketch pad, drawing them. But in my head, I’ve never wanted to be a portrait painter. In my head, I’m a landscape painter. I’m inspired by trees, the sea, the wild places. In my head, I see visions of the landscapes I will paint. Yet of all the paintings I’ve completed this year, most have been portraits. I don’t want to paint portraits, but I can’t seem to stop myself. Everywhere I turn there are portraits: televised competitions, magazine articles – it’s as though my creativity is conspiring against me.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with portraits. I can be just as excited about beginning a portrait as a landscape. Yet there is something about a place that inspires me more than the human form. Even in my writing, that sense of place is key and it is often the setting, rather than the characters, that first sparks the story.
So what do you do when your creativity seems to be leading you in an opposite direction to the path you want to take? Do you listen, or do you fight against it? I strongly believe that life sends us messages. When something seems to be everywhere you turn, it’s because that’s where you need to be right now. It wasn’t until I’d written my horror novel that I finally decided that wasn’t the path I was going to take and I felt confident in where I was going with my writing. So perhaps this flirtation with portraits is just a step on the road to finding my real voice as a landscape painter. Perhaps I’ll find that portraits are where my voice lies after all. Or maybe there’ll be space to do both. Either way, the messages are too strong to ignore, so, until they tell me otherwise, I’ll continue to find inspiration in the faces that sit before me.