How is painting like writing?

Why is painting like writing?

While painting what seemed like miles of baseboard and trim in my condo, it occurred to me that a painting project is like a writing project: Both involve a process.

My painting process  required the following steps:

  1. Deciding to paint; then assembling tools and equipment (paint, brushes, tape, newspapers, sandpaper); then taping and preparing the surface for the paint
  2. Painting
  3. Stepping back to look at the painted product, now dry, in a different light to see if I missed any spots
  4. Touching up whatever I missed, sometimes repainting a whole section
  5. Final touch-up and clean-up (removing tape and newspapers, scraping any stray paint, cleaning myself and my tools)

Writing projects require a similar process:

  1. Prewriting: deciding to write, brainstorming my ideas, outlining a coherent path through my often-chaotic brainstorming
  2. Drafting: Letting my ideas flow on paper without censoring or stopping to revise or rewrite
  3. Stepping back to look at the written product to see what I might have missed or what I should change (I often ask others for their opinions at this stage)
  4. Revising my writing to improve it, sometimes rewriting a whole section
  5. Editing and proofreading what I hope is the final product

No painter would consider skipping that first step in the painting process, yet many writers skip the first step and plow right into drafting without enough planning and preparation. When I write, as when I paint, I find that time spent on planning and preparing makes the project flow more smoothly.

To extend the metaphor:

  • My baseboard and door-painting project could have been overwhelming, like writing a large document can be. To avoid “painter’s block,” I divided the project into manageable chunks. I paint all the trim and doors in one room each weekend. Likewise, I divide large documents into sections and tackle them, a section at a time. Chunking painting and writing may not be as efficient as tackling the entire project at once, but dividing the work into chunks means I am more likely to do the divided work.
  • I don’t like to paint, but I like to have painted; likewise, I don’t like to write, but I like to have written.

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