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What moves an artist? 

What is art for artists?

How did they start?

What tips do they want to give?


Eelco Sijtsma


Introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you?

I'm Eelco. I was born in Friesland, but I cannot skate. I have been living in Utrecht for quite some time now, where I share an apartment with my lovely girlfriend and creative partner.

I work as a chemical analyst in food safety and in my spare time I try to be as creative as possible. I mainly write short stories and have been active in photography for several years.

Photography came to life for me when I bought an analog camera about 8 years ago. I love the mechanics, the precision and the chemistry that happens when the light rays hit the photosensitive film and create something unique every time. The process alone is art in itself. However, I have switched to digital photography two years ago, because it offers more room to experiment. I work with Fujifilm myself, because their cameras are able to approximate the analog feeling well.

About 12 years ago I started writing short stories. First you write what you know and copy your idols, but eventually you start to develop your own style, after which you can express your thoughts more and more concretely. That's what you ultimately work towards. I like short stories, precisely because my available time is limited. But at the same time you limit yourself with short stories – you have little room to elaborate. That is why I have now started writing a book. The first pages are written on a typewriter – an Olympia SM4 from 1959. Then I immediately come to an important hobby of mine: I collect typewriters.


How nice. So you are a real typewriter collector. What do you find so special about it?

I currently have about 30 of them. The same applies to typewriters as to analog cameras. The technology is so precise, ingenious and they do not break easily. It is different from digital technology. What you write is immediately put into the physical world. You immediately have your hard copy.

People forget that for decades the typewriter was the face of many an office, living room, pharmacy - you name it. The precursor to the computer as we know it today. That's what makes having typewriters so special. You have an important piece of history in your home. In addition, just like with pens, they all write differently. This way, over time, you can choose a favorite that you will ultimately use to write your masterpiece.

In addition, it gives me a lot of inspiration to hear the stories behind the machines from the owners. One comes from an abandoned station building that was bought by a man and converted into a house - the other talks about how his father used to use the typewriter for all correspondence and learned to type on it himself. In the end, almost everyone is happy that they do not end up in the trash and have an owner who appreciates their value - you notice how many vivid memories it evokes in people.

"People forget that for decades the typewriter was the face of many an office, living room, pharmacy - you name it. The precursor to the computer as we know it today. That's what makes having typewriters so special. You have an important piece of history in your home."

Very nice. And you also write on your typewriter? What does it give you?

That's right, I always write the drafts on my typewriter. I use my computer a lot for my work and I find it a relief to disconnect from the screen for a while. No sharp light, no internet, just the keys and a fresh ink ribbon hammering the letters into the paper at any time.

However, I cannot avoid combining everything and digitizing it as soon as I have enough. This makes merging and making adjustments easier. So I can say I try to combine the best of both worlds.


How did your passion arise?

I met a good friend of mine around the age of 20, who was and is active in the theater world. He had read some of my blogs on Hyves and asked if I would like to give a reading of his work during the book presentation of his collection debut. He offers a platform to many young artists and he has also immersed me in the wonderful world of writing. I am very grateful to him for that – he knew before I did that I would enjoy writing. When I had more of a voice and knew what I wanted to write about, I participated in WriteNow! In 2009 I received an honorable mention and the following year I won the preliminary round of Friesland. I wasn't exactly brimming with confidence – so much so that I didn't even invite anyone to attend the awards ceremony. I didn't think I was going to win. Finally I got to the final. The flame was fueled by the people I met there, the workshops and the recognition I received. Everything came to life a little more. Recognition is nice, even though you ultimately do it for yourself. You can be extremely critical of yourself. I mainly struggled with the question: “When can I call myself a writer?” And who was I writing for? What was my message? Ironically, I struggled especially after WriteNow! with these questions that made it difficult for me to shape my writing for a long time.

Yes, do you ever suffer from writer's block?

Yes, my writing has many intervals where not a letter is put on paper. I think many artists sometimes hit a wall. For whom and why are you actually doing this? It's difficult to have inspiration to write with such a mass. Inspiration is an elusive thing. In addition, art cannot be expressed quantitatively, while I do this in my work. Art has no sharp dividing lines and is different for everyone. That's just so beautiful.


A turning point came when I took a minor in cultural philosophy and aesthetics during the last year of my studies. A fantastic decision. I concluded the minor with a “master thesis”, a work that you could complete according to your own wishes. As long as research preceded it.

That's how I decided to tackle my writer's block. I read all of Van Gogh's diaries and ultimately wrote 3 chapters about them from Van Gogh's perspective. It's fantastic, of course, to be able to write “required”. It was refreshing to step outside the boundaries of my own frame of reference. I got to know Van Gogh in an extremely intimate way, which made writing about him easier. I think you should mainly write about what you know: being honest. You can't bluff with writing, because the reader will notice that quickly enough.


What would you recommend to writers with writers block?

I personally benefited greatly from the book “Stephen King on Writing”. Although I am not a fan of his work, I am certainly a fan of the way he writes about… writing!  King doesn't necessarily give you tangible tips or exercises for writing, but he speaks to you on a deeper level, your responsibility as a writer. You can already write. You feel that you are a writer. You know that, you feel that. You just have to keep moving and recognize and recognize your own limits. The most important lesson I have learned is what I just mentioned: write about what is close to you, about what you know. The best books, in my opinion, are written by writers who have done this. In my opinion, this is the only way you can shape the experience as completely as possible in words, allowing the reader to be drawn into the universe you create.

What can we expect from you in the near future Eelco?

I started my first novel during the Corona crisis! I have some ideas and I'm not sure at the moment which one will work, but I'll figure it out as I go. I'm certainly not going to put a deadline on it. Write a lot, that's important.

Furthermore, after a break due to the corona crisis, I have continued with a photo documentary about the typewriter. The theme is the typewriter in modern times. Although the device has been forgotten, I have met several people who have integrated the machine into their lives in some way. This includes collectors, writers, poets, but also a retired typewriter repairman who has a typewriter museum on the top floor of a barn. Against the elements of nature, he tries to prevent the extinction of this piece of history. As soon as this project is finished I plan to have the photos bundled. I may combine the photos with text, but I haven't decided yet.


What do you look for in literature? Which authors do you like best?

When I started with the Dutch reading list in high school, I read a lot of Grunberg. His writing style appealed to me at the time. Grunberg can write beautifully visually. Gradually, however, I expanded to W.F. Hermans, but also foreign literature. Murakami has written beautiful books and I am currently working on Johan Harstad. Buzz Aldrin, where have you gone? I really enjoyed it and I am now working on the immense book “Max, Mischa and the Tet Offensive”. One of my favorite books is The Stranger, by Albert Camus.

"My writing has many intervals where no letter is put on paper. I struggled after WriteNow! with the question: how should I view myself? I find that difficult. I think many artists have a lot of difficulty with that: how do you portray yourself. As a 'writer'? ."

What would you like to say to aspiring writers?

Write. Always take a book and pen with you. Try to discover where your strengths lie and keep reading a lot so that you can recognize what works and what doesn't in a book; so you can discover what excites you. It also helps me, for example, to sometimes take a step back from work that I have been working on for a long time. To forget about it for a moment. It's refreshing to discover it again after a while. As if you are reading the piece again for the first time.


Write sincerely, honestly and above all:  keep reading to remind yourself why you want this so much. If all goes well, you know deep down that you are a writer and you don't have to justify that to anyone.

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