Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writers on Writing: Timothy McDougall on The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

There are so many books that are inspiring to me but I would single out, for the sake of practicality, T. E. Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. I say this because his prose is so poetic, almost line by line, that it has the quality of making you wall out all other considerations of the moment as it wraps you up and carries you completely into its journey. It had the same impact as when I saw my first Renoir painting, remembering how I rounded a corner at the Art Institute of Chicago, coming to a sudden gasping stop when I laid eyes on the 1881 painting of “Two Sisters (On the Terrace)” and almost involuntarily saying, definitely thinking, “this man can paint!” I couldn’t take my eyes off it for quite some time. I put the two experiences together because writing, I believe, is similar to painting. Also, almost all artistic endeavors are usually beset by headwinds of one sort or another.

It is understood that Lawrence faced an arduous and uneven task of getting his manuscript to the public though it is now widely hailed as a literary masterpiece. There is further a story told by the impressionist painter Claude Monet concerning an early encounter between Edouard Manet (an established painter at the time) and Renoir (who was younger and early into his career) at Monet’s home in the countryside of France. Renoir had energetically set up a canvas next to Manet and started painting along with the master. Manet looked at Renoir’s work and visibly upset, quickly took Monet aside, commenting regarding Renoir, “He has no talent, that boy! Since you are his friend, tell him to give up painting!” This particular anecdote taught me a twofold lesson, one I believe that is especially valuable to all who venture: beware of the naysayers and gatekeepers, they come in all sizes and guises.
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Timothy McDougall is the author of Violence, a contemporary romantic suspense/thriller which is available on Amazon. Timothy currently lives outside Chicago with his wife and three children. Violence is his first novel.  

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