It was reading both Marcel Proust and Lydia Davis which gave me the permission to write with abandon, opening up without the fear of seeming pretentious or foolish. Proust let me into a world of lengthy (and painterly) descriptions of Nature, Paris, and women. Like with so many wonderful writers, reading Lydia Davis has at times seemed to me that I have been invited to an autopsy performed on her characters, still alive, and writhing. I like her sharp incisions into the stuff of everyday life, out in the world, all the banal relationships we have with complete strangers. And also with our own strange selves are we confronted. She has a quick visual acuity which rivals Proust, (whom she also has translated). But where he takes a page, she pares it down to a sentence or two.
It's a tricky thing to write with a public in mind because one can really only learn to write by writing, writing a lot I discovered. And many years of writing for oneself in a diary only prepares oneself poorly for the wide outside world. But, it does teach one to begin stringing sentences together with some assurance. And only after much writing does one begin to feel confident that a small voice will rise up out of the mud to squeak, like in a story by Dr Seuss. And in the end, who cares anyway?
In Painting, many seem to be obsessed with finding a style. An old friend of mine who has been very prolific in her life as a painter suddenly expressed this problem to me the other day. I was stunned to hear her say this because for me, she has always had a style which is natural, very personal to her, and very recognisable. Then she showed me some things on Facebook. What she really meant to say was that she didn't like her style, her drawing. This is altogether different. So we talked about that.
It can happen that an artist will become dissatisfied with their work periodically. The question of Style is different, but it is something which newcomers in many artistic fields do fret a lot about.
I read a book about the painter Martin Mull who attended Rhode Island School of Design back in the early 1970's. In it he tells a funny story about one of his classmates in Freshman year who idolised Vincent Van Gogh. This fellow not only went around campus dressed up looking like Vincent Van Gogh, but in the studio, he was also trying to paint with Van Gogh's explosive style much to the amusement of other classmates and his teacher. One day, after complaining about not having his own style to the class, his teacher, asked him to paint a self-portrait as an exercise and he went on to explain to the confused freshman that any and all of his 'mistakes' in the self-portrait would in fact constitute his 'own very personal style'. His 'mistakes' were in fact, his style. This proved to be a valuable lesson to Mull, and needless to say, it would have been a great moment for all the students.
So all because of Marcel Proust and Lydia Davis, I learned to indulge myself, page after page of delicious descriptions of roaming The Louvre, spending time with Titian, and Goya whilst all the while obsessing about the hat check girl at the entrance who took my overcoat.