For some reason today, as I was working on a couple new covers and struggling to reconcile the awesome image in my head with my actual abilities when it comes to actually drawing something, I started thinking about a high school English class book project I once cooked up involving The Scarlet Letter, quotes from the book, and rather rudimentary drawings of roses (white for Dimmesdale, pink for Pearl, Red for Hester). I'm pretty sure we had the option of writing a paper or making something more creative, and you know how much I like writing papers. This is the awesome English teacher who had us making giant collages inspired by The Crucible a little before that, if that gives you any indication of her teaching style.
The SL project, if I remember correctly was a stapled booklet with a construction paper cover and I'm pretty sure it was colored pencil (though heck, it may very well have been crayolas) And while I do remember that the project cemented my understanding of metaphor (well my high school understanding of metaphor anyway), it also made it very clear to me that the things which exist in your head are always problematic when it comes to realizing them in the flesh. It was a stumbling block I would come up against so often, even years later when I was trying to write stories or poems and especially when I was trying to draw or paint just about anything. To a lesser degree, I encounter it in everyday things, a design scheme, an outfit, a prepared meal, anything that seems so good in theory but failed to manifest correctly. All the ways in which the ideal is somehow deflated in the real.
This is probably one of the reasons I have come to love collage. Since I am typically working and arranging found things, there is rarely a specific idea I am trying to translate. Or maybe more that the idea comes from the materials. Even when it comes to writing, my approach has become more collage-like, the sewing of things together rather than translating something from my head. The idea, the story, comes not from some idea, but more from working with what's available at hand. In truth, that has been what has saved me as a writer, what keeps me writing, the discovery vs. the faulty transcription. (I suppose you can only make a fallen cake so many times before you just sell the bakery.)
There was a Flannery O'Connor quote going around facebook, that got me thinking about all the ways in which I have made discoveries just by getting things down on paper. things I had no idea that I was thinking about, that I was obsessed with, but that appeared there in front of me, or kept appearing over and over. Maybe it's a subconscious thing, or maybe just pure luck. Usually, if just get a handle on the ingredients, the cake just makes itself.