Applying the rules of art to writing: look and think

“For every hour of making, spend an hour of looking and thinking: Good work reveals itself slowly. You cannot judge a work’s full impact without hours of observation. It is also a good idea to step away from what you are doing at regular intervals. The immediate impression a work makes when it is re-encountered is critical. A good work is satisfying both upon immediate encounter and after long periods of concentrated viewing. If any work fails on either approach, keep trying until you feel satisfied that you have succeeded on both counts.”
Excerpt from ‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White

Okay, there’s a lot here.

Looking and thinking means use your writer’s notebook, have it by your side all day. The muse does tend to strike me at inconvenient moments, and unless I make a note of that brilliant thought it will undoubtedly be forgotten.

Kit WhiteThis is a small scruffy notebook from my handbag, the notes scribbled on a day recently spent walking around Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. The emotions were so strong, the sense of history, a moment of horror trapped in a sunny September day: my mind teemed with ideas and sensations to write down. How I will use these ideas, I have no idea. Perhaps they will be useful in five, or 10 years time. The thought that won’t go away? The wildflowers growing so innocently on the fields of a death camp.Kit WhiteTake a break: certainly between drafts, if you are stuck, and before submitting to an agent.

First impressions: it is difficult to look at your work without any forethought, try to look at it as a reader opening the book for the first time.
Kit White

‘101 Things to Learn in Art School’ by Kit White [MIT Press] Buy now

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Look and think: applying the rules of #art to #writing via @SandraDanby


  1. What an emotional piece about the concentration camp. I have always been fascinated with Auschwitz and years ago, I had a trip cancelled to go there, unfortunately.
    As for the notebook… I always, but always have a notebook to hand. I know you read my recent blog “How do you write what you write?” which covers exactly this notion…