Learning how to write from Bob Ross

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Sometimes I like to turn on Bob Ross to absorb how calm and mellow he is, and I find it relaxing to sit and watch him paint for a bit. Children are highly chaotic entities, so I know how to appreciate the change in pace that comes with everyone sitting together watching a show that we can all enjoy.

It occurred to me that one could also learn how to write from Bob Ross, as long as you think metaphorically.

He doesn’t simply slap down blobs of color and call it done. He blends the paint, adds shadows and highlights, and is mindful of the details. He also doesn’t overwork the paint or try to control every single aspect of the picture, instead working with the textures of the brush strokes and allowing elements to evolve naturally.

And, as everyone knows, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.”

A lot of writers stop at the blobs of color phase. They’ll free write whatever passes through their minds then hit ‘publish’ without any more thought about the story. These sorts of writers can produce a lot of content in a short amount of time, but it will all feel unpolished and unsatisfying. Often, when I have tried to explain how these writers have good potential but they need to dedicate more attention to reworking their story, they get upset rather than accepting the advice (even when I’m responding to their request for criticism). So, remember, blobs of color are your foundation, but they are not your finished story. The first draft should not be your last. And no, your blobs of color are not more genius than anyone else’s. They all pretty much look the same.

Others will overwork the story to death. They’ll edit out the spontaneity of adventure, and reduce their characters to props who serve rigid roles, instead of letting them shine as quirky individuals. These writers don’t let the overall picture evolve naturally, and their stories feel formulaic. While they are often well intentioned, they don’t know how to let the story flow on its own.

There are also writers who put in too much detail, and create overly-busy stories with no clear focus. They forget to leave the background in the background. They throw too much information at the reader all at one, or create more characters than there’s room for. They describe the condiments instead of the picnic.

When you are in the process of editing, take a step back and try to visualize the story as a painting. Is there enough detail without being overdone? Did you let elements evolve naturally and follow the flow? Did you flesh out the foreground and leave the background appropriately hazy? Is it something that you would hang on *your* wall? Remember, you can always fix it.

And the next time you watch Bob Ross, just imagine that he’s speaking in metaphor and soak in all of his encouragement.

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