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Some days the first draft of a book feels like hacking away at a huge block of stone, just hoping something will emerge.
You can type words on a page and they end up a rough version of the story in your mind. They don't resemble anything like a finished novel, and you can't see how it will get from that rough draft to a final, publishable book.
Well, take heart from a master.
In Florence, the stunning statue of David is displayed in the same hall as the unfinished slaves that Michelangelo carved (at least it was when I was there last!). At the end of hall, in natural light from a dome surrounding the white Carrara marble, David stands in pristine and perfect glory. Perhaps this is intimidating because in the literary world, David would win the Nobel Prize for Literature – but he started in the same way as those slaves.
They are trapped in marble, hints of the bodies emerge but the majority remains hidden. The muscles are shown but not in detail, they are just rough starting points. It gives us a hint of how they were carved.
The outline of a finished idea was seen within the stone and great lumps hacked off to make the basic form. Then the next layer of detail was added as the limbs were shaped, the torso was formed and the musculature added. Finally, the perfecting details would have been added so that the final statue would be awe-inspiring from all angles.
Perhaps we will not all be able to create a masterpiece like Michelangelo's David but we can take heart from the process of sculpture as demonstrated by the emerging slaves. Just hack away at the top layer until you see your story emerge, then move to the finer detail when that is in place. Of course, it takes time, but part of the fun of writing is the process and what we learn along the way.
(Image: Flickr CC JessoHackberry)
If you like visual art, you might also like this post: 15 Ways Modern Art Galleries Can Inspire Writers