I am still thinking about the season six episode of The Americans where the artist died.
One of the last things she did with her remaining strength was to scold Elizabeth about the artwork she had Elizabeth doing. I think in her final days, she was desperate to pass on her knowledge to someone, and her “nurse” was the only someone available. Elizabeth went along with it because her spying duties demanded she not rock the boat with that couple, but Elizabeth probably never saw herself as an artist before. Or maybe, as a spy, she has been required to draw things she saw when she sneaked into warehouses and office buildings, but she never saw herself as an artist in such work. It served a practical purpose.
The fact that she started drawing outside of the setting of the dying woman’s bedroom is part of that “not rocking the boat.” The artist gave her a sketchbook and expected it to have fresh drawings whenever Elizabeth came to work. So Elizabeth drew stuff in her off hours. Random stuff? On the plane, she draws the passenger window with the clouds going by. The artists confronts her, asking why she chose to draw that scene. Elizabeth doesn’t know, but then even real artists often don’t know why they pick the images they depict.
Still, the artist expected Elizabeth to somehow know why she chose the object she did. Or maybe not to know, but to figure it out. Think it through and glean “Why that window?” I like the way that pushy, desperate, dying artist put it: “Find yourself in it.” Meaning, IMO, figure out why that window with the clouds above the world spoke to her and Elizabeth chose that image to draw. That idea–that you don’t just draw what ever you draw, or write whatever you write, and leave it at that without further thought–spoke to me.
I have been feeling a little disconnected from my story lately. It has taken a decidedly political turn, and that leaves me cold. Or, at least procrastinating writing some parts of the story, because I just think, “Ugh, I hate politics.” The next thought that occurs to me is, “Maybe I should just scrap this part of the story and concentrate on the parts I like.” But the artist’s demand, “Why that window?” cut through that. I had to ask, “Why politics? How did that get into the story? MY story?” I have to figure out why I went that route in the first place; what I was trying to achieve, or to say.
More than that, though. I need to find MYSELF in that part of the story. Not toss it out, but find out what speaks to me in those elements. Bring some passion back into what I’m writing. It’s good, because, scrapping parts of it and making all the adjustments that would entail, at this juncture, would just drag out me completing this story the way I dragged out completing other stories.
So I am going to give that some thought.