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SKETCHING to BOOST CREATIVITY
THE WRITER'S WAY

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the writers way jen frankelSKETCHING to BOOST CREATIVITY
THE WRITER'S WAY

by Jen Frankel

Jen Frankel gets sketchy

Over the years, one of my greatest joys has been to integrate a little bit of drawing into my work, even though it's never going to be displayed with the writing.

I actually attended a vocational art school after high school - not that much of it rubbed off on me. What I mostly learned is that it's a dangerous thing to insist that an art teacher also be a working, producing artist. I'd rather in retrospect have had teachers who had great technical skill and little ambition. Probably would have made little difference to me; the truth is I was at art school at the absolute wrong stage of my development. There was no way I would have thrived there under any circumstances.

What art school did most of all was nearly remove from my makeup any desire to put pen to paper for any but the most alphabetical of pursuits. Fortunately, I am nothing if not difficult to cure, especially of a creative habit.

I used to spend a lot of time before art school sitting in cafes or on what passed for a table at home (my electric bass case propped up on two milk crates) with my sketch book, pencils, erasers, rulers, acrylic paints I used like watercolours and watercolours I applied thick like acrylics...

I did the drawing to the left for a performance by actor Amelia Lenz, the preliminary sketch for a three-faced mask I built representing the Fates.

I love to draw while I write. Sometimes it's to make maps of the places I'm writing about. I did these two drawings when I was trying to get the geography straight for my first novel, THE LAST RITE.

I also had to keep myself straight on what was Maggie's public school, so I could separate it from the one I actually went to... which was remarkably similar for some reason...

Sketching, even crappy pictures, works as a way to get past a mental block. At the very least, if I can't find something to write about, at least I've added a layer to my conception of the character.

I drew a lot of pictures when I was writing my first novel, THE LAST RITE. I mostly drew the main character, Maggie. She's... well, she's mostly me at thirteen, introverted, always just a little pissed off. And she had long dark hair. I liked trying to get the look in her eyes right. Then, I felt I had to write, because she'd become a little more real, and she would turn that pissed-off attitude on me if I didn't finish writing her story.

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It may be a little perverse, but one of the fun parts about writing for me is to take the central character, likely the one I identify most strongly with, and put him/her in immanent physical jeopardy. Here, I was imagining Maggie (in the sequel, when she's 16) being kidnapped by her nemesis, Mr. Hunt. I really shouldn't be so pleased about the grin on his face... poor Mags.

Jen finds other uses for drawing

A picture happened because a friend once posed a question to a bunch of us over Mexican food -- if you had to be handcuffed to a guy you liked, would you want it to be right-to-right hands, or left-to-right? Since we were seventeen or so, we all became giggly and completely swept away by the possibilities. Ah, seventeen. So naughty...

And then, sometimes when I'm totally blocked, and happen to be working as a receptionist in a tattoo parlour, this kind of thing happens:

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SKETCHING to BOOST CREATIVITY