I JUST RETURNED FROM ITALY. My family and I spent 10 days, starting in Rome. Then we rented a car and drove north through Tuscany, visiting Siena, Florence, Pisa and more medieval villages than I thought could ever still be standing.
It’s impossible to visit Italy without seeing some of the world’s most acclaimed artistic treasures. The David. Michaelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling. Bernini’s angels on the Saint Angelo bridge. Botticelli’s canvases. Donatello’s bronze.
Creation is everywhere…
|Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel ceiling|
While we were traveling from town to town, museum to museum, I was alternatively reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, and two non-fiction books about creating published work: Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield and Write. Publish. Repeat. by Truant and Platt.
I was toggling between art, murder and publishing. A delicious mix, isn’t it?
I had been to Rome and Florence before. But this time around, the art was more captivating to me and I spent a lot of time wondering why.
I started to feel that the books I was reading were part of the reason I was more moved by the art.
Doyle’s first book is a little amateur, to be honest. Without spoiling it, I can tell you it is really two entirely different stories that are slapped together into one novella. I also strained to figure out what the title had to do with the story. It’s worth reading, if only to view the first effort of a writer whose body of work eventually became epic, inspired TV and movies, and has been read by millions of people over many generations.
Doyle’s first effort bears all the signs of a clumsy debut. But can you imagine if he had never made that effort? Nor made it again. And again. And again.
Turning Pro and Write. Publish. Repeat. are about this: making the effort. I could sum up the more than 100,000 words of both books by saying they are essentially about fighting your fear, battling your laziness, and making the effort to create your art. Whatever that art might be. They each have nuances on those three themes, but that’s essentially what they are both about.
|Michaelangelo’s “Holy Family” – his only panel painting|
So then, back in the Italian museum, I look up and in front of my eyes, there is Botticelli’s Primavera. Or Jesus descending from the cross. Or Michaelangelo’s “renegade” Holy Family (at right). There is Jesus, romping over Mary’s shoulder, not cuddled in her lap. Nobody had done that before. What an effort it must have been to show the world a different view of such an iconic scene.
So I eventually realised that I appreciated all of Italy’s art treasures this time around because of my own journey as a writer, because of my own struggle to create. It is a struggle to make anything new, to make art, to make anything different. Many obstacles block us, some of them external but an astounding amount of them from within us.
Are you someone who wants to create? Are you able to make the effort or do you get in your own way? I know I definitely do.
If you still have the appetite to read more about the struggle to create, you might like this post, about Frank Sinatra in his early days. I wrote it while I was writing my first novel, a few blocks from the house where Sinatra grew up. I hope you enjoy. When Nobody Knew Sinatra’s Name.