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Writers Block

July 14, 2019
_MG_0684_36x36 Typewriter_Ex Libris

36 x 36″ Oil on panel, “Ex Libris”

I have ambitions to be a writer.

I’m already an author, and for goodness sake, this blog has kept me writing steadily. But so far, my successful books are non-fiction – and that’s not really what I imagine when I think about writing.

You know – novels! I’d like to be writing fiction someday. I think I have the imagination for it. The question is if I have the discipline.

Last year, I painted a set of typewriters in watercolor, and, over the 2018 winter, I made these larger ones in oil.

My thinking was – “I need something to hang over my writing desk. This will be the inspiration to finish these books!”

I have quite a library of false starts. I imagine some of you do as well. How many of you have a half-finished book in your cloud storage?

_MG_0684_36x36 Typewriter_First Draft

36×36″ Oil on Panel, “Do not Bend, do not Edit your Soul – Franz Kafka”

Last year, I painted a set of typewriters in watercolor, and, over the 2018 winter, I made these larger ones in oil.

My thinking was – “I need something to hang over my writing desk. This will be the inspiration to finish these books!”

Finishing this second painting was a battle. Maybe you can tell?

But – that makes it perfect for writing inspiration. It’s a visualization of the writing process.

Messy. Rough-hewn. Terribly unfinished in parts. Yet, there are passages that sing. Little fragments of the first draft survive untouched all the way to the final work.

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_magic realism

10×10″ Oil  on panel, “Magic Realism”

So, for now, I’m still focused on visual arts. But I’ll keep working on my writing in the background. And in the meantime, I’ll keep working on these typewriters. I’m curious if I’ll have a show of these paintings before I have a finished novel? Hah! We’ll see!

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_great american novel

10×10″ Oil on panel, “The Great American Novel”

Marc Taro Holmes 10x10 oil on panel_the workhorse

10×10″ Oil on panel, “The Wordsmith”

38 Comments leave one →
  1. Noah permalink
    July 14, 2019 10:58 AM

    Marc, if you write with the same imagination and skill that you paint then we are in for some darn good novels……go for it. N

  2. Annie permalink
    July 14, 2019 11:11 AM

    Listen, I thrilled to your “Messy. Rough-hewn. Terribly unfinished in parts.” But especially to “… passages that sing.”
    Unusual feeling for me, must mean something: your head, heart, life are coming together to write, and these unusual, masterful typewriter paintings reflect that. Whew.

  3. Malinda Anderson permalink
    July 14, 2019 11:16 AM

    Your typewriter paintings are just wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing them. I so enjoy your posts and especially the way you express your relationship with art-both the good and challenging. I just wanted to point out you have already done a lot with your writing skills in communicating your painting experiences. Thank you. One of your fans, Malinda Anderson

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. Gina Bisaillon permalink
    July 14, 2019 11:17 AM

    I love these! Maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember using them!

  5. July 14, 2019 11:25 AM

    Wish you the best on your writer journey ☺ I’m sure you’ll be able to make it to the finish. Getting where you are as an artist requires a lot of effort and hard work as well, so you know the drill ☺

  6. July 14, 2019 12:12 PM

    Have you seen Natalie Goldberg’s book _Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World_? It’s been a while since I read it, but she at one point decided to stop painting so that she could seriously focus on writing… and her writing suffered. Turns out she needs to keep both modes of expression. I enjoyed it, and it looks like there’s a new edition.

    • July 15, 2019 9:00 AM

      That’s interesting! I could see that happening. I do plan to write and illustrate – even if the drawings never become part of the book, they’re part of the process, and these days, I think you need imagery for everything you want to talk about. Thanks Jane.

  7. Cindy Shaw permalink
    July 14, 2019 1:27 PM

    I think you are a great painter no matter what medium you use. And using your own images as inspiration…has my vote! I so look forward to your posts and new images. Your rough landscapes make me wish I could touch them ( even though I know we aren’t supposed to). I enjoy their presence and energy. I can’t imagine what presence your novel will have. 🎨😄

  8. July 14, 2019 2:23 PM

    I love how your typewriters turned out! What a fantastic addition to a writing area. Inspiring. Just like a good story not everything in the artwork is shown, but rather suggested, allowing the mind to fill in the rest.
    Might I suggest your looking up Holly Lisle as a wonderful instructor in writing fiction. Her classes are amazing!
    Thank you for the beautiful artwork and books.

  9. July 14, 2019 3:10 PM

    Well, I love the typewriters! I’m a non-fiction writer and what I love is to combine my own illustrations or photos with what I write. I’ve been doing this since the 1980s and have several documents / books published in this way, especially since Photoshop was introduced to the PC and the means to reproduce got easier.

    Anyway, while I do not understand non-fiction at all (the only stories I tell are how to do things), you might want to combine the things that attract you visually with the stories that play in your head.

    You might want to try writing and illustrating a short story, maybe around 1,500 words.

    Come up will illustrative themes to augment your writing.

    And of course, publish online all the time. I do not think that this hurt writers who’ve made a great deal of money with story telling. Interacting with the public fuels the creative soul.

    Perhaps create the whole story in illustrations, then write the words . . .

  10. July 14, 2019 3:13 PM

    And BTW, I just bet you never typed on one of these things. I have. The pounding was enough to kill any creative flourish, which is why so many creative instructors in the 1900s recommended writing via “handwriting” and disdained anyone who typed . . .

    • July 15, 2019 8:58 AM

      It’s true! I bet I’d be a fountain pen writer. Then you’d have to hire a typist. There were more jobs back in those days hey? Nobody is a typist today :)

  11. July 14, 2019 4:19 PM

    I wonder what kind of writer you want to be. You have already exceeded any expectations I would have with your books and blog. If I aspired to be a novelist I would want to be Michael Ondaatje, the author of the English Patient. His books are deep, involved in the spirit of people, world traveled, therefore interesting beyond our Borders. Good luck. I love the typewriter paintings and as usual you inspire me.

  12. Meredith permalink
    July 14, 2019 4:45 PM

    Really wonderful Marc

  13. July 14, 2019 5:05 PM

    Hi, Marc, I resonate with your concerns about writing because *I *have such blocks around “the doing of art” and am always both inspired and intimidated by your posts and your newsletter. It feels as if it should be so easy, but…

    I’m taking the liberty of sending you this link to one of my blog posts, and I hope you may find some of it useful. Would very much like to know how it strikes you. Especially the Michelangelo quote (about avoiding premature structuring that can rule out all kinds of ideas)…

    Best regards,

    *Monica Faulkner*

    *310 391-3705*

    *(\__/) (=’.’=)*


    *The meaning of life is to see. — Frederick Franck*

    On Sun, Jul 14, 2019 at 7:51 AM Citizen Sketcher wrote:

    > Marc Taro Holmes posted: ” I have ambitions to be a writer. I’m already an > author, and for goodness sake, this blog has kept me writing steadily. But > so far, my successful books are non-fiction – and that’s not really what I > imagine when I think about writing. You know – ” >

    • July 15, 2019 8:57 AM

      Hey Monica! Yes, this article is right on! It’s the same strategy I had for drawing really – carry a sketchbook everywhere and just draw in those spare moments. I think it can be done for writing as well. (I do a lot of writing on my phone for instance). I’ve joined a kind of writing circle where we meet for writing jams. That might be another angle to get a few hours a week in.

  14. July 14, 2019 7:30 PM

    Love your typewriters!

    As a published writer of both fiction and nonfiction who used to teach writing, I can offer you a few tips on writing a novel. If you can manage just a page a day (which is about 250 words), in a year you’ll have written a book! Sit down and go balls out until those words are done every day. Other than reading the previous day’s page, do NOT go back and edit them until you are done with the book or you will get bogged down and you will also be in danger of breaking the pacing of your work. Remember, your goal is a book and you can’t edit what hasn’t been written. Do not talk about what you are going to write, for the subconscious does not know the difference between writing and talking and you will lose some of the spontaneity in your writing. And, finally, do NOT share your work with anyone until it is done, for their response may taint your enthusiasm for your work.

    • July 15, 2019 8:55 AM

      Great advice Sinclair – I think the idea of ‘don’t tell anyone until it’s done’ is terrific. But also hard (for people like me) to do in this age of blogging :) When we’re telling everyone what we’re doing every day. That would be pretty neat – to have a secret project. The rest of it is also good advice – though – I’m a bit of a ‘blitz worker’ – I think I’d enjoy taking two months to live on a desert island and writing the whole thing <<< If that was possible.

    • July 15, 2019 10:36 AM

      I totally agree with Sinclair, with the exception of the advice to not share one’s work. It is through sharing that insight flourishes, even the insight one has thru self criticism. Art and creative endeavors with no audience is either a form of masturbation or truly, a dead end.

      • July 16, 2019 8:24 AM

        Ha yes – interesting right – there’s so much advice on writing,you can pick and choose – ends up coming down to ‘do what you like, it’s all good” :) Sharing has kept me motivated with art, but with writing, not so much – I’m more self conscious about words for some reason. I suppose it’s that I learned to draw when I was too young to care.

  15. Bernadette permalink
    July 14, 2019 7:30 PM

    Great work both in inspiring words and images. I too agree that your paintings should accompany your writings. They are so emotionally full of feeling and passion. Thank you for allowing us a sneak preview of what is to come.

  16. July 14, 2019 9:32 PM

    Fine paintings, and I think I have typed on all of those! Underwoods, Royals, Smith Coronas, Remingtons. Loved them all, and you could get a real workout banging out a term paper!

  17. D Holder permalink
    July 14, 2019 11:04 PM

    Love the typewriters!

  18. July 15, 2019 11:12 AM

    These are great paintings! Beautiful in fact. A little old school, but that’s what makes them so charming. I can’t imagine a pic of a computer laptop being as stunning. But who knows? I could be wrong. You’ll finish those half-written books when you finish them. Art is like that. It happens when it’s supposed to – and then, like these paintings, because it was the right time, art always turns out beautiful! Congrats on these! You just inspired my day!

  19. July 17, 2019 3:39 PM

    This piece is so honest and full of life! I love that you share your thoughts and your actions in this. To often we tend to just share our thoughts and not our steps of getting there. Thank you for being truthful and showing others your process, it makes us feel like we are all on this writing journey together.
    – Sam

  20. July 17, 2019 9:51 PM

    I used to have the worst writer’s block. Then, I switch to oral traditional storytelling for a while (ran off and got a masters in it). Now, I’m challenging myself to write (not edit) six books this year. It’s amazing how much it helped. I hope you’re able to tell your stories soon!

  21. Audrey Marie: Sí permalink
    July 24, 2019 3:18 AM

    Hi Marc.
    I am also a self-driven writer, mixed media artist of sorts, finding inspiration on purpose AND in the unlikeliest of places/people.
    I do fall short on my process many times, I am not at all successfully published, and am not as good as I may think I am. Yet I am still ambitious, which counts for something.
    I just started my blog, with one post. I feel like the confidence gets delayed the more I try to share. Do you feel like this?

    • July 25, 2019 11:59 AM

      hmmmm, I can’t say I feel like sharing delays my confidence, no. I get energized by the sharing. I’ve always been more motivated to do things to show others, than I am to just do them for myself. (Which is I think a character flaw, but there it is).

  22. July 25, 2019 12:19 PM

    For me this happens me with poetry. I used to wake up from a deep sleep and simply have this urge to write, an urge to write all my thoughts down. I used to read/write poetry all night but now for some reason, when I try to write I struggle…maybe it’s because I want to find the right words or that I’m trying too hard to make it all sound right to the reader, which simply doesn’t work. I guess some times people can get lost in this world of thinking you need to have a reason and purpose for everything you do. Think it takes courage and honesty for writers to write solely for the purpose of allowing themselves to simply write the truth and nothing else! This takes trust within yourself to WANT to write the truth and believing that your imagination, everyone’s imagination is a gift!

    • July 28, 2019 9:06 AM

      This is all true about how there is a struggle to keep going sometimes. I don’t know everyone’s reasons. Mine is fear of being judged inadequate. So I keep pushing and use that as a pressure to do better work. Eventually fear of not accomplishing anything before you die takes over from fear of doing poorly, and you start doing the best work of your life.

  23. ekfmef permalink
    July 28, 2019 6:09 AM

    I have eight first drafts of novels sitting in a folder on my computer- the fruits of 11 years of participation in National Novel Wrting Month. As you seem to like challenges, it’s maybe something for you? It’s 1667 words a day for 30 days in November. The idea is that you have to go back and edit anyway, so why not move a bit faster on the first draft? I discovered that I like writing but I hate editing, hence why I never got past a first draft. But it’s a lot of fun and there’s a great community around it. They (lots of regional chapters) organize write-ins in November and sometimes throughout the year.

    • July 28, 2019 9:08 AM

      Yup, one day I’m doing Nano – I mean, I pretty much converted the idea to #30x30DirectWatercolor :) but yes, someday soon I’ll be ready for the novel writing. I just put aside a false start and began a series of short stories. I think I can get some traction by treating writing the way I treated drawing. Start small, work fast, do lots, build judgment, and eventually, you have the foundation for larger work.

    • July 28, 2019 11:37 AM

      I’ve read several of your posts on the subject of writing novels and expanding your natural interests. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I can’t post as I don’t have the correct login information on whatever device I am using. So this post encompasses my thoughts on many of yours.

      It is unfortunate that with today’s technologies, we can become much more comfortable “producing” anything in the past. At 75 years old, I found art supplies prohibitively expensive in my late teens and early 20s. Also, books! Wow! What a treasure was a good “how to” art book. And now, the “how to” information is pretty much freely available on the Internet and I can buy anything on Amazon or eBay and have it in my hands within days.

      I could not have grown as much as I have in the past few years after retiring at 70 and surviving breast cancer if not for online purchases. And those online purchases have allowed me to be an explosion of production and creativity.

      Unfortunately, if I want my creative output to earn money, I am in competition with thousands of others who are going the same route I am, plus the creative people in countries whose labors used to be in producing stunningly beautiful things that are now on sale globally for pennies on the dollar.

      I am a writer and have books in print (or out of print, I’m now a senior senior citizen) and during that part of my career, my success was writing about things that others were seeking. I currently have an outline that I’m ditzing with that more or less addresses just that . . . what to do with one’s skills in a way that advances everyone.

      Currently, I love designing sugar cookies with Royal Icing (see Littleviews-crafts . com) BUT this is a hobby that requires I make my own canvases (cookies), paints (Royal Icing), produce everything from scratch then eat it. I can make more than what we can eat or give away to neighbors, so I’ll be making cookies for our local fire and police departments as spontaneous gifts. The issue is I am producing more than the demand and I want to keep doing this because I enjoy the process.

      I’ve had other experiences recently with producing more than demand, and it is quite sobering. Is it worth being creative if no one buys or if there is no place to give it away? I’m sure that people who crochet throw blankets have the same problem.

      Well, my creative life isn’t that dismal, but what you’ve been talking about does seem familiar to me . . . striving to produce something unique and personal best to be seen and appreciated. And should one earn a living doing it? Is everything produced worthy of a return? Or are there things produced for beauty’s sake and the enjoyment of all “just because.”

      Eating one’s efforts truly does make sense, BYW.

      I always have book ideas going and am always judging “has this been done to the satisfaction of the reading community?” (Like, maybe you are bored or annoyed by this missive right now . . .). What I have found in developing symmetrical Royal Icing design is that I have to do a lot of sketching in that venue . . . Mandalas. Unless I can produce 20 mandalas within several days, I don’t know the subject. As a writer, unless I keep writing, whether what I say has a market or not, I become a thinking head instead of a creator.

      Sooooooooooooo, in summary, write and publish your short stories daily. 300 words would be great, instead of musing on why you haven’t yet written that great novel. By the short jumps (as you’ve reported them), you will find the long trail.

      I look forward to reading your work. I hope when I get my “Shortcuts – life hacks to improve your well being” actually out in the open, you’ll want to read mine. Or else, ask for some iced cookies. I’ll be glad to send you some in October when the humidity is no longer a problem.

  24. July 28, 2019 11:38 AM

    PS: my previous message was a stream of consciousness . . . not proof read. If something doesn’t make sense, please fill in your meaning.

  25. September 15, 2019 7:01 AM

    Wow! These are magnificent… I love proper old fashioned typewriters. They’re what I learnt on. Lovely clack, clacking noise. Katie

  26. Maria Drimi permalink
    May 9, 2021 11:09 AM

    Dear Marc,
    I just found your wonderful work in here, as I was googling for paintings with typewriters. You’re really talented. I’m an ICU doctor from Greece and a writer and playwright,too. I wonder If I could use one of your typewriters as a cover in an e-book of my new play (expected to appear in the web in the beginning of July). It will be a free e-book which will be published in a few popular greek sites with literature and drama. Of course there will be a reference to you and your site.
    Whatever your answer will be, congratulations for this magnificent paintings. Keep up strong and well!

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