Joann Sfar, if you haven't discovered him yet, is a talented French graphic novelist (plus artist, novelist, film director, etc...) who is also quite prolific. He has a real way of capturing life in his drawings and of incorporating pieces of his cultural heritage into his stories. I mention him here, because I heard him say something in a documentary last summer that has stuck with me. "Reality is to an Illustrator, what Exercise is to the Athlete."
He also went on to say (and please forgive me for the terrible paraphrase; I only have what I originally scribbled in my notebook and not the actual text for reference), "sometimes I need to draw what is right in front of me.... sometimes there is a dog and I just need to start drawing the dog.... When I was drawing the different musicians for Klezmet, I found I had to learn to play the instruments myself in order to get the hands right, to look natural. The hand is like a cup of water, taking on the shape of everything it touches, having no shape of its own...."
It got me thinking about how I might be overlooking the practice of writing as I chip away at turning one or another of my stories into more polished, finished versions. Do I regularly take the time to sit and observe, and then describe on the page, the what and who right in front of me? Does doing so add depth or nuance to my writing in a way that is moving me forward in my "craft" over time? Do I get out of my own way and let go enough of what I am trying to do in my storytelling to see what actually is?
Still mulling it over to some extent, and not sure I've really gotten to the root of it. But I've written a lot more prompts over the past year, and I've rewritten the quote as a shorthand reminder to ground myself in my writing when my mind starts trying to launch my stories off into the fantasy stratosphere. Perhaps you'll find it useful as well.
REALITY IS TO THE WRITER WHAT EXERCISE IS TO THE ATHLETE.
For those anywhere along the writing path, I'd be curious what you think.
Addendum: I stumbled across this Write Practice entry this evening, and I think it says what the Sfar quote says, in a far more practical way. http://thewritepractice.com/learn-painting/