Bigmouthed purple fish

And a lesson in storytelling

I was reading Chris Zydel's book, Conversations with the Brush when I stumbled upon this story. As soon as I read it, I knew I have to share it with you.

It is a story of Chris’ interaction with one of her intuitive painting art class students.

This is how it goes:

Chris: How is the painting going?

Student: Well, to be perfectly honest, it’s kind of freaking me out.

Chris: Why is that?

Student: Well, I painted this big-mouthed purple fish with yellow whiskers.

Chris: Uh-huh.

Student: And then I accidentally messed it up.

Chris: Yeah?

Student: And when I went to fix the fish, it yelled at me!

Chris: What did it say?

Student: It said, “Don’t fix me!”

Chris: OK. So, did you fix it?

Student: Of course I didn’t fix it! I was too startled to do anything, and what do you mean by “OK”? I know you said that our paintings could eventually talk to us, but I didn’t think you meant like actually talk.

Chris: What did you think I meant?

Student: I don’t know. I thought it was a metaphor or something, but it actually talked, like, out-loud talked!

Chris: Did it say anything else?

Student: Yes, it did. It said, “And you don’t need to fix anything ever.” That’s what really freaked me out.

Chris: Why was that?

Student: Well, here’s this big-mouthed purple fish, with yellow whiskers, talking to me like a freaking Zen master!

Chris: And that’s a problem; why?

Student: It just seems wrong somehow, and it’s completely scrambled my brain. I don’t know what to think now.

Chris: Well, maybe that’s the point. Any Zen master will tell you that thinking is highly overrated.

Student: Yeah, well, I’ve definitely heard that before, but now I don’t think I’m ever going to forget it. Every time I try to fix something from now on, I’m going to see and hear that darned purple fish yelling at me.

That is something I am experiencing right now.

I finally started working on the book I proposed in my last month’s letter - about conversations with my inner critic.

How is it going?

Terribly. For the past few days, I have been struggling to find a way to structure it. I have tried many formats, but somehow they don’t fit the book's image in my head.

A I was pulling my hair was about the slam the laptop shut, I came across the above story and suddenly knew what was going on. Like the bigmouthed purple fish with yellow whiskers, my story is telling me - DON’T FIX ME.

I was trying to fit the story to the image I had in my mind. While it was coming out like the big-mouth purple fish.

We tend to mold our creativity to fit certain criteria—either our own or what others have set it out.

Creativity has its own ways to express. And whichever way it comes, we should accept it. There is no right or wrong way to draw a fish. Nor is there a right or wrong way to tell a story.

There is no better way to tell a story than whichever way it comes.

Here are the links to this week’s articles on Medium.

Writing The First Draft

I Am Writing My Second Book

City of Troy and Acropolis


That’s it from me this week.

Take care.

Neera Mahajan

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