Van Gogh Was a Writer


I went to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam this weekend. I am always inspired to look at an artist’s life in retrospect. They break it up by years, or when I saw Monet — geographical moves, and when I saw the Picasso exhibit in Milan, I saw his work change by lovers and war.

What’s inspiring to me is that you can see how much they’ve done right in front of you on a wall. You might like the piece, or not, but you can see the time they spent on it. And to see so much of their work all at once is mind boggling. You’ll know what I mean when you walk through the Elvis’s trophy room at Graceland.

I always leave wondering how I can make more of my life. To do justice to the span of the remaining 35-60 years. And what will mark the change in everything I have to offer? I know that I will write, but I’m positive it will not always be travel related. My fascination with movies is just too strong.

Back to Van Gogh. One of the new things I learned about him, was that he was a letter writer. They put large quotes up on the a few walls in the museum. Here are two that I liked:

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“The way to succeed is to keep one’s courage and patience, and to work on energetically”
—Van Gogh to his brother Theo, Feb 1886


“The creative power cannot be repressed, one must give to what one feels.”
—Van Gogh to his brother Theo, June 1883

The question is, what is your definition of success? And can you break it down to one thing at a time so as not to be overwhelmed?

Here’s my take on both the creative process and success:

Know what it would take for you to feel successful. Write down your ideas. Then sit your butt down and start on them before tomorrow’s ideas get the better of you. Figure out as quickly as you can which ones to let go of before they hold you back from the ultimate goal.

—Leo to Written Road, as she starts working the notes taken from her weekend research.