Wilson Dougan, Renaissance Man

January 27, 2011

Wilson Dougan, Renaissance Man

By Seth Greenwald

Wilson was a man of ambition. He knew it was so because of the fire in his gut. He felt heat every time he saw a great painting. He would be a painter. He burned at reading each great book. He would be a writer. He smoldered upon entering a great building. He would be an architect. He would do great things, he was sure of it.

Wilson went to the art store. His heart leaped at the sight of the raw material for his masterpieces. His hands itched to touch it all, buy it all. He leafed through sketchbooks, his sketches already inhabiting the pages. He strolled among the paints, feeling the smoothness of each brushstroke as it flowed from his hand. He stood before the canvases, already framed and hung.

Wilson stepped into the museum. A retrospective, the sign read. ‘The Paintings and Drawings of Wilson Dougan’. The first room held sketches. On the wall were row after row of pages, framed, yet empty. He walked up to the plaque.

Wilson Dougan never produced anything of quality, so in order to not offend your eyes, we framed these blank pieces of paper. The texture of each page is infinitely more interesting than anything Dougan actually drew. Notice the consistency and purity of each page. Dougan’s actual sketches, both of them, didn’t add anything to enhance the page. So we left them in archive.

Wilson jumped back, stung. “Well that’s… that’s… they can’t mean…”, he sputtered. He quickly moved off to the next gallery, housing the paintings. There was only one. He didn’t recognize it. It was a two-dimensional representation of a house, door centered, with windows flanking. A chimney jutted from the left slope of the roof, a curl of smoke from the chimney. To the right of the house was a family of stick figures; a daddy, a mommy, and a little girl. She was holding a flower, while a doggy sat next to her. The painting was finished by a tree, complete with hole and bee, and a grinning sun.

Wilson Dougan was an even worse painter than he was a sketch artist. We decided that it would be better to grab this finger painting, by the curator’s five year old granddaughter, off of his refrigerator and hang that.

Wilson gave a start. He looked around. He was still in the art store, holding a blank canvas, stretched and triple primed. He stared at it for a long moment. He put it back, turned, and strode out of the store.

Wilson sat down with his latte, opened his laptop, and cracked his fingers. He took a sip as the word processor loaded. The blank page and blinking cursor gave him a shiver of anticipation. He could see the words of his novel filling the screen, characters so real that they leapt from the page. He smiled and placed his hands on the keys.

Wilson stood in the New Release section of Barnes and Noble. On the shelf was a row of books. He picked one up. The cover read:


A Novel

By Wilson Dougan


He grinned to himself as he flipped the book over in his hands, relishing the feel of it, the smell of it.

There is no way to describe what Wilson Dougan has done to the world of American fiction.

— The New York Times

One of the worst crimes against literature to be perpetrated in the last 500 years.

— The Washington Post

Anyone want to roast some marshmallows? I’ve got kindling.

–Dave Barry

Mystified, he flipped to the first chapter.


Dear reader,

During the editing process we realized that there wasn’t anything salvageable in Dougan’s manuscript. In order to fulfill contractual agreements, and to limit loss of money and reputation, we decided it would be in our best interest to print a blank book. We apologize for any incontinence that this may have caused, and we hope that you will still consider purchasing other books that we publish in the future.


Acme Publishing

P.S. Yes, we meant incontinence.

With trembling hands, Wilson looked up from the blinking cursor, and out the window. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and gently closed the lid on his laptop. Staring into the distance, he finished his latte, gathered his things, and left.

The smooth white surface of his drafting table soothed Wilson as he contemplated his next move. He would not be deterred so easily. He still felt that fire. Looking over the tools of the trade, he selected a pencil and let his hand hover over the tracing paper affixed to the table.

Wilson picked up the newspaper from his front step, pulling his bathrobe tight against the early morning chill. The steam off of his coffee curled and writhed, fragrant. He sat down on the front porch couch, ready to see what was new in the world.

Collapse Catastrophe

Architect incompetence sited in the deaths of 142 people when a building suddenly imploded.

“ENOUGH!!!” He roared, slamming his hand down on the drafting table, snapping the pencil in two. Shards of wood and graphite flew in all directions. Wilson stomped out of his studio and headed back to the house, shaking the sting out of his hand. “Time to do something that I know I will succeed at.” he muttered as he rounded into the kitchen.

Wilson poured a beer and picked up the remote.



  1. Hi Seth,

    It is a good story, it can be made into a short movie.

    It is a scary story, full to the brim with Wilson’s insecurities building up on themselves, as if spawning, the newer one being an even bigger and worse than the previous.

    I see Wilson all wrapped up in joy, in the art store, he is breathing in all those art materials, as if they are a special kind of air necessary for his body to survive. Then, the balance tips and he is on the negative, as he witnesses the results of his fear that made him not touch the paper or the canvas, the fear of distroying the purity.

    His senses are again stirred by the new books, this time his books in B&N, but these are a repetition of the results of his fear of putting pen to paper. Maybe again because he does not want to distroy the purity of the blank pages.

    As these are not such a disaster to mankind, he does not get very shaken really, but when he reads the printed news telling the outcome of his incompetence as an architect, the horrific result of his work, he wakes up with a surge to change his life and attitude.

    I am afraid Wilson is trapped between two worlds. His mind and the world around him. And he is probably incapable of actually doing. He does not have the power to journey from idea to finished product.

    I am not sure why the story end with the disaster…all of a sudden what I write now does not support what I wrote before. Because he had taken action as an architect and I hoped he would be revenged with that..mmm…He succeeds in finding the remote and opening the beer, which makes him a loser, in spite of what de declared a minute before…

    Seth, you have talent. A lot of talent for writing. Do not do like Wilson and abandon the pen or the brushes.

    Please update your wonderful site!

    Best wishes.

  2. Thanks for the comments and encouragement! While I definitely have Wilson tendencies, I am quite different in that I have embraced my chosen path, professional art, come hell or high water.

    It wasn’t an appreciation of the purity of the surface that kept Wilson from doing anything, it was the fear of what people would think of what he had done, and the fear that he wouldn’t be good at it. So in reality, Wilson never really cared about his craft, he only cared for notoriety. It was ego, not passion, that drove him.

    Every day, I strive to remember why I want to do this… because Art is in my soul. Simply the act of creation, regardless of it’s acceptance by others, is an end in itself. I will pursue mastery (not perfection!!) for the dual purposes of personal satisfaction, and the ability to make a living doing what I must do anyway.

    Thank you for reading my story!


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