What Writers Can Learn From Artists About The Creative Process by Stacy Hoff


Above picture: “Head” by Philip Guston (MoMA)  

I visited New York City not too long ago. I traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I did more than simply view the magnificent art—I learned from it. Not as an artist, but as a writer.

The timing for my museum trip was lucky. I caught the last few days of the Met’s special exhibit on Michelangelo. While I’ve been lucky enough to see many of Michelangelo’s finished pieces during a trip I once took to Europe, I have never before seen any of his draft work. Seeing his ideas in raw form let me know that even one of the greatest artists of all time still had to go through a “rough draft” stage.


Above pictures: (left) Michelangelo’s “Study for the Head of the Cumaean Sibyl on the Sistine Ceiling” (right) Michelaneglo’s finished “Head of the Cumaean Sibyl”

What did this mean to me? That it’s okay for me to spend time “sketching out” my ideas. That my “rough” stages can eventually be smoothed out to final form. That the “trial and err” stage can lead to something beautiful.

Picture above: eye sketches from a student of Michelangelo, including one sketch by the Master himself.

Michelangelo understood that artists need more than talent—they need encouragement. One of the most fascinating pieces in the Met’s exhibit was a collection of eye sketches (above) drawn by one of his students. Michelangelo later added an eye to this page as a demonstration of proper technique.  If you look at the upper left hand side of the above photo, you’ll see Michelangelo’s handwritten note to his frustrated student, counseling him to be more patient.

Words of advice from the Master. Words that I must master myself.

Above picture: Exterior of the Met  



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