Q: When did you start doing artistic projects?
A: When I was maybe six or seven. I remember I did fish drawings, pages of fish, thirty or so swimming across each page, and my goal was to make each fish different. I had hundreds of different fish before I stopped. I don’t remember what caused me to stop, but I probably just got tired of it. I didn’t stop because I’d drawn every possibility. About the same time, I started writing books. I had a little loose leaf notebook and I’d write in that. Nothing much came of it but I knew I wanted to write even then.
Q: What inspired you to start?
A: I believe I had to do it. Some art just has to be done. Later on in sixth or seventh grade I started writing short stories because I got extra credit for them. So some art is for the extrinsic reward you get. You can get good art either way. I stopped writing the short stories when they got too stupid even for me. I had criminals hiding their stolen jewels in a fake barracuda. That’s pretty stupid. And to this very day I cannot write short stories. I guess I used them all up back then.
Q: What types of stumbling blocks do you face on a project?
A: For drawing, it’s my very limited technical skills, which I try to overcome by making every drawing sort of cartoon-like. For writing, it’s plot and the fact that writing is for me a fairly painful process and I tend to avoid doing it if I can. If I’m in the process of writing and hit a stumbling block, it’s a good excuse to quit. I don’t think I’ve ever abandoned a drawing though. One reason is that it doesn’t take all that long to do a drawing. It takes an awfully long time to write a novel. For me at least. I think Georges Simenon took six weeks for every novel he ever wrote. I’ve been “working on” some novels for 35 years.
Q: What do you do to overcome those stumbling blocks?
A: A drawing can always be worked on. Something can be done with it, so just pressing on and doing what I can to the best of my ability isn’t really all that hard to do. Novels, on the other hand, are easily abandoned and only returned to when the need arises. It might never arise.
Q: How do you know when something, a project, is done?
A: You just know. You always know when something isn’t quite right even if you can’t clarify it. Sometimes you can say the balance isn’t right or something’s wrong with the color or whatever. If it isn’t right, then you work on it. Most often when it’s finished is when it feels right to me. Occasionally I know that a project can be stopped because it’s as right as it’s ever going to get. It’s not perfect, but it can be lived with.
Q: When you look at something you’ve finished do you want to tweak it?
A: Not usually. When I declared it finished that meant I was satisfied with it. Looking at it later doesn’t normally change that. That said, I can almost always find changes to make in a writing work in progress. Eventually I will be satisfied enough to consider it finished, which means only that I don’t have any strong objections to it in that form. Once Billy Bumbry’s Year was published it never occurred to me to want to change anything, so I guess once it’s permanent it’s fine by me.
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Joseph Valentinetti is an author of fiction and fiction based on fact. Get better acquainted at http://www.valentinetti.com. Come join my site and become part of the dialog. Read A Book.