Gazing into Art

04 May

Auguste_Renoir_-_Dance_at_Le_Moulin_de_la_Galette_-_Musée_d'Orsay_RF_2739_(derivative_work_-_AutoContrast_edit_in_LCH_space)I just finished an excellent novel. It was one of those books that had everything—fascinating characters, a unique plot, complex themes, poetic prose, and punchy dialog. I closed the book, shut my eyes, and let the thoughts roll over me.

I considered the themes of the book. Heroism and sacrifice and family and forgiveness. I considered the way the author brought all those themes around at the end when, just a few pages before, I’d had no idea where the story was going.

I remembered the way the author combined the deep, serious themes with her lighthearted, often laugh-out-loud prose. Anybody can write serious, but to write funny—that takes great skill. To successfully combine both is the mark of a true artist.

I wanted to go back and analyze how the author put all those elements together, but I didn’t want to lose the magic of the story. My reader-self argued with my writer-self. So far, the reader has won, but the writer will eventually go back and reread the story, pick it apart like a vulture on roadkill, destroying the beauty of the once majestic animal to get to the meat.

I wonder if this is how a painter feels as he walks through Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, gazing at the great works of Renoir and Van Gogh and Monet and Cezanne. Is this how he feels as he walks the great halls of the Louvre, sees the Mona Lisa for the first time, studies the classics that have been admired for hundreds and hundreds of years? Do they step back and take in the beauty and wonder, or do they step in to analyze and critique? Do they think, if I could just learn to mix my colors like that, copy that brushstroke, learn that style…? As if art were a matter of tools and tricks and techniques. Real art is more than that. It’s ordinary elements, like words and paint, magically transformed into exquisite, ethereal beauty.

Tweet this: Art is ordinary elements magically transformed into ethereal beauty.

Maybe artists look at those paintings and think, I could never do that.

Because whenever I put down an excellent book, my heart thumps wildly, inspired, while my brain whispers, don’t even bother. You don’t have that kind of talent. It would be so easy to give up, to leave painting to the Van Goghs of the world, to leave literature to the Shakespeares. But then I remember an important truth:

God called me to do this, and he always equips those he calls. So no matter the outcome, I’ll keep at it. Maybe someday, somebody will look at my books and think, how did she do that?

And if they ask, I’ll probably give the glory to God, because I’ll have no idea.

How about you? What has God called you to do that you don’t feel equipped for? Have you ever felt like giving up?
DSC_8915-25edRobin Patchen lives in Edmond, Oklahoma, with her husband and three teenagers. Her third book, Finding Amanda, released in April, and its free prequel, Chasing Amanda, released in July. When Robin isn’t writing or caring for her family, she works as a freelance editor at Robin’s Red Pen, where she specializes in Christian fiction. Read excerpts and find out more at her website,



Posted by on May 4, 2016 in Robin Patchen, Writing


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14 responses to “Gazing into Art

  1. Pegg Thomas

    May 4, 2016 at 6:26 am

    Have I ever felt like giving up? Pretty much daily. But there’s a level of satisfaction in slogging along and working to improve that keeps me going.


    • Robin Patchen

      May 4, 2016 at 8:19 am

      True, Pegg. Even when what we produce isn’t Shakespeare, at least we’ve produced something. There is satisfaction in that.


  2. Normandie Fischer (@WritingOnBoard)

    May 4, 2016 at 10:10 am

    Excellent as always, Robin. In art school, we studied the greats to capture the magic of their creations, to sense the depth and breadth and glory of genius. Most of us knew we’d never be Michelangelo or Rodin, but their work helped us see and understand line and form and beauty. I think reading great stories as a means of learning craft is of paramount importance. We need to surround ourselves with genius so we know what it sounds like, what it looks like, what it feels like–otherwise, how will our eyes and ears and senses recognize what’s yet needed in our stories? Maybe we’ll never achieve that level of brilliance, but all we can do is try to be the best we can be, whatever that means, whatever that calling is for each of us.

    This is the first lesson I had to learn when I moved from sculpture to fiction: I had to allow myself to be me, whatever that meant, instead of worrying that I’d never measure up. Because I won’t–at least not in my own eyes.


    • Robin Patchen

      May 4, 2016 at 10:39 am

      You’re right, of course. I do regret losing the awe of reading a great book, but if I want to become a better writer, it is vital that I analyze what I love–and don’t love–about the books I read. For me, the biggest issue is that niggling doubt, knowing I’ll never be able to write like that. Of course you’re right–God created me to write like only I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. jerichakingston

    May 4, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Maybe the author of the book you read feels the same. I’m sure he or she has moments of inspiration and moments of doubt. Since we’re often either feeling inadequate or (gasp!) thinking too highly of ourselves, to be able to view one’s work honestly and humbly–and to share that work–is a gift. Keep sharing, Robin! Your stories are gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Robin Patchen

      May 4, 2016 at 6:17 pm

      Thank you, Nikki. I’m sure you’re right–we all feel inadequate at times and gifted at other times. The key, I suppose, is to just keep at it. Your stories are gifts, too!


  4. Terri Weldon

    May 4, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I definitely feel inadequate at times, but so far I just can’t quit. You’re one of those authors I read and think I’ll never write like that.


    • Robin Patchen

      May 5, 2016 at 12:13 pm

      Oh, Terr, you’re so funny. What a sweet thing to say. And I feel that way about your writing, too. Your stories are so unique and fresh.


  5. Sharon Srock

    May 5, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Just so you know, every time I read a Robin Patchen MASTERPIECE, my heart says “don’t bother trying to go there, because you can’t.” I don’t know why God called us to do something and then instilled such feelings of inadequacy and competition. Maybe that’s how He keeps us humble!


    • Robin Patchen

      May 5, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Sharon, your writing is fabulous. We’re all different, though, and I love your stories. We need to learn to appreciate our gifts and others’ at the same time. It’s hard!


  6. edefreitas

    May 6, 2016 at 12:12 am

    I’m curious now–what novel was it? I’m not religious myself but I’m glad you have a way of combating that negative self-talk of “Oh I could never do this.” It’s so important to just try, you know?


    • Robin Patchen

      May 6, 2016 at 8:58 am

      I’ve been waiting for somebody to ask! It was Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. I didn’t mention it in the post, because it’s not a Christian book, and mostly Christian fiction readers read the blog.

      How do you combat the insecurity?

      Liked by 1 person

      • edefreitas

        May 6, 2016 at 11:18 pm

        Ah, well I’ll definitely check it out. I totally get wanting to stick to your blog’s theme but I was so curious!

        I have a few different ways of combating it. A lot of it is being aware of it and focusing more on motivation than on the scope of one’s goals. One thing I find particularly helpful is breaking everything down into small, feasible steps, and making each step a goal for the day, or the week. Like instead of saying, “I’m going to write a novel someday” I’ll say, “I’m going to do a character sketch today” or “I’m going to write the scene that’s in my head.” It’s sort of tricking your brain because it’s harder to be negative against yourself when you’re only doing something small. After weeks or months of doing it though, it starts to really add up. The other thing I’ll do is try to reflect on the big things I’ve accomplished in the past–my senior writing assignments for my writing and English majors for example–and remind myself that if I could do those, I can definitely do something else.


        • Robin Patchen

          May 7, 2016 at 11:14 am

          Those are great ideas. I see what you mean about the small goals. Instead of saying, “I’m going to finish this novel by x-date,” I generally decide the number of hours I’m going to spend on it that week. Usually, I decide on Sunday that I’ll spend 10 hours that week, and then I work at least two hours every morning. I’ve started and finished two novels this year with that method.

          That’s how I get stuff done, but I don’t feel like it helps me much with the insecurity. For me, my confidence comes down to what I believe–that I was created for a purpose, and that part of that purpose is to write. Otherwise, why would God have given me the desire and the ability to do it? Those beliefs are an integral part of who I am and what I do and what I believe about myself.

          I remember my big writing assignment in college, and I know what you mean. If I can write 25 pages on the history of the political cartoon, I can write just about anything. 🙂 Of course, that was so long ago…previous millennia, in fact…I hardly remember how I did it.

          Have a great day!

          Liked by 1 person


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