Saturday, August 6, 2022

Writing Tips From the Joy of Painting

by Tim Suddeth @TimSuddeth

“Now then, let’s come right down in here and put some nice, big, strong arms on these trees. A tree needs an arm, too. It’ll hold up the weight of the forest. Little bird has to have a place to sit. There he goes.”

If you haven’t watched the Joy of Painting on YouTube, you have probably caught a glimpse of the show featuring Bob Ross on PBS. The soft-spoken artist with the afro aired on PBS from 1974, beginning with The Magic of Painting, to 1994. You can still catch his shows on reruns and YouTube. Each episode showed Ross painting a landscape in thirty minutes.

Not only was Ross a talented painter and instructor, his viewers found him to be an incredible source of peace and calmness. During the COVID lockdowns, many turned to him for an escape from all the stress they were encountering.

On his shows, his goal was to show that painting was a talent that anyone can learn. Many of the tips he shared can also pertain to writers.

4 Writing Tips from Joy of Painting

  • 1. “Talent is a pursued interest. Anything you’re willing to practice, you can do.”
There is a common teaching that to become efficient at doing something, it takes ten thousand hours of practice. We get caught up on the ten thousand, but the gist of the message is that to get good at something, you need to practice. Me shooting hoops may not get me to shoot like Steph Curry. But it should make me better at it.

I discovered that in my writing. It can be called finding a groove or getting on a streak. The more you do something, the more it becomes your routine, the easier it is to do and the better you get at it. Practice is when you get the feel for your work. The ear for hearing when your writing flows and when a ting interrupts it.

And one day, you can agree with Ross when he said, “Every day is a good day when you (write).”

  • 2. “I guess I’m a little weird. I like to talk to trees and animals. That’s okay though; I have more fun than most people.”
As a writer, especially newer writers, we often find someone we like, and we try to be like them. The next Stephen King, or Max Lucado, or Beth Vogt. And that will not work.

First, you expect to start off and be like they are after they’ve had years of experience. And second, you have a unique personality, or voice.

My son loves to sing the line from the Barney song, You are special.

Part of the practice we talked about above is finding what makes you unique and special and giving your readers what they come to expect.

I like how he said it, “They say everything looks better with odd numbers of things. But I sometimes put even numbers—just to upset the critics.”

  • 3. “We don’t really know where this goes—and I’m not sure we really care.”
We need to give ourselves grace as we grow in our writing. If you’re a parent, you don’t want to freak out when your child spills the drink she’s bringing to you. Even if it is on your new sofa.

She’s a kid. She spills things.

You’re a new writer or, at least, new at this. You’re going to mess up. It’s called growing. We have all had the faux pas we hope nobody notices.

When he painted, he would have the occasional smear or touch. Then he would use the mistake to add something new to the painting. He showed how accepting many of life’s circumstances that seem to intrude on our plans can become an improvement.

  • 4. “Go out on a limb—that’s where the fruit is.”
He often encouraged his watchers to take chances in their paintings. To take the techniques he had shown and add their own ideas.

That is how any artist or writer becomes better or great. When they say you can’t, grin and show them you can. Reach for your dream. Whether you want to write fiction, a memoir, or a devotion. Accept the challenge. And accept the effort required that comes with it.

I have to admit, I am probably like must of his viewers. I missed the whole point of his show. When the episode ended, and he’s standing beside a beautiful picture of a mountain and a stream, I think I could never do that. I could never paint anything that wonderful and lifelike. Even though he just spent the last twenty plus minutes telling me I could and showing me how.

Writing is so easy. You just put words on paper.

If you have ever let anyone else read your writing, you know it isn’t that easy. But that doesn’t mean you can’t.

I like the way Ross sums up life. “Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.”

Tim Suddeth is a stay-at-home dad and butler for his wonderful, adult son with autism. He has written numerous blogs posts, short stories, and three novels waiting for publication. He is a frequent attendee at writers’ conferences, including the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and a member of Word Weavers and ACFW. He lives near Greenville, SC where he shares a house with a bossy Shorky and three too-curious Persians. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter, as well as at and


  1. Great insight, Tim. I've enjoyed watching you grow as a writer.

    1. Thanks, Cindy. You have been an encouragement and role model. Thank you for all you do, my friend.

  2. Tim - I've read many, many of your posts here. This tops them all. Not only does it reflect YOUR growth and development as a writer, it has some powerful, on-point messages that apply to us all. Especially me. You continue to be a blessing to Edie's blog as well of the Tim Suddeth Fan Club. Write on, brother1

    1. Wow. Thanks. That’s an honor.

  3. I really enjoyed this delightful post, Tim. A lot of wisdom woven into a fun read.

  4. Great post! It really encouraged me!

  5. I used to watch that painting show too. I didn’t know it was still available! I love the way you drew lessons from it that also apply to the art of writing.