Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Happy Little Philosophy

I love Bob Ross. I don’t even paint, but if I’m home on Saturday afternoon, you better believe I’ll have the TV tuned to the local PBS affiliate for The Joy of Painting. I think it’s because the show, while classified as an instructional program, isn’t only about brush techniques, and tubes of Phthalo Blue and Titanium White. It’s also about attitude.

Bob has a reputation for being a bit goofy with all the happy little trees and footy hills and things, and that’s what has made him an enduring cult icon. But as he talks and taps that fan brush on the canvas, he weaves this whole philosophy about art that transcends form.

No, really! I mean it! Let’s look at a few quotes culled from the web.

“We don’t make mistakes, we have happy little accidents.”

“That's why I paint. It's because I can create the kind of world that I want, and I can make this world as happy as I want it. Shoot, if you want bad stuff, watch the news."

“There are no mistakes in your world.”

What can a writer get from all of that? An acknowledgment that art is supposed to be fun. A reminder that we write for ourselves as well as for our potential audience. Permission to play, to make mistakes in pursuit of our craft. The realization that said mistakes aren’t the end of the world, nor are they permanent.

As a writer, the simplicity of this happy little philosophy appeals to me. And, although I do sometimes get blocked, or frustrated, or scared of failure or criticism, and probably always will, I like to think that having these ideas in my writer’s toolbox will help get my words out as well as keep the things I can’t control in their proper perspective.

The Happy Little Philosophy isn’t going to engage every writer, though. And that’s all right! Just know it’s there for those times when you’ve agonized over the same scene for days or a particularly scathing comment about your latest work has you glancing sidelong at the blinking cursor.

I hope you’re enjoying our launch week here at Title Magic, and we look forward to seeing you back. Happy Wednesday!


Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I love that guy! I don't paint either but he's just so engaging and has a wonderful attitude about life.

Savanna Kougar said...

Hey Mel, I haven't thought about 'that guy' in ages. I used to catch him now and then because it was magic to watch him paint. To me writing and painting can be and are magical expressions. Also, it's an opportunity to create 'happy' when the world is crashing unhappily around us. And thanks I always need reminders about mistakes being happy little accidents.

Savanna Kougar said...

A special Kougar smooch for Mel. Mel, you are so kind. Thanks for reading my RT story summary. Your words were certainly magic to my author ears.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel! Great job of applying the Happy Philosophy to writing! Your example particularly spoke to me bec. I've started learning to paint.

Nancy Haddock

Holli Bertram said...


I used to watch that guy! I didn't know he was still on.
I remember being almost hypnotised as I'd watch him put paint on canvas and see a whole magic world emerge.
Thanks for reminding me about him - I'm going to make a point of hunting down his program again

Mel Hiers said...

Hiya, Nancy! Thanks for the compliment! Painting always looks like so much fun. Maybe I'll try it again someday! :-)

Anitra! *waves* He totally does! :-)

Hey, Savanna! I'm with you on the creating happy. I figure, I can't control the bad external life stressors, but I CAN control the art I make.

Hi Holli! It is a bit mesmerizing with the canvas tapping and his gentle banter. Like Savanna said, it always seemed like magic to me! :-)

Trish Milburn said...

I always loved Bob Ross. I was sad when I heard he'd died several years ago. He had lymphoma. I could sit there and watch him paint and listen to the way he talked for hours.