I looked out the window in my bedroom this morning and immediately saw the beauty of the various shades of green facing me. Not only the soft sage of the curtains falling gracefully to the sides, and the deep forest green of the vase filled with magnolia leaves atop a minty green iron filigree table.
But outward even into the space beyond – the sun dappled leaves of the maples just starting to lose their dark green color, the feathery intensity of the Leyland Cypress trees and the thick needled pines, as well as the holly trees and bushes against the mossy color of the grass as the hours of sunlight each day have started fading fast.
All was a study in green.
In that instant I recalled the first day of art class in high school. Our teacher informed us that he could instruct us on how to prime a canvas, hold a pencil vertically at arm’s length and run a thumb along it to judge the scale of things in the distance, and how to mix two colors to create a third. But the most important lesson of all was not something he could ever teach us – how to see.
And yet, that is exactly what he did.
Carefully we dissected paintings and took sketch books into the fields, looking for the places where the light hit objects and brightened their facades. We learned to look for the dark places – the shadows, the subtleties that made all of the difference.
And this morning it hit me that the same can be said for writing. For what is worth reading that doesn’t have it’s dark and light, conflict, yin and yang?
We don’t enjoy a two-dimensional piece of writing any more than we appreciate a two-dimensional painting. We want fully formed heroes and heroines. We want to believe in their realism, even if the story happens in a fantasy futuristic world.
And now I know what writing teachers mean when they say that they can’t teach us how to write, but they can give us the bones of the craft. They just can’t teach us how to see. That is something we learn from life and experience.
When did you see something in a different light than you’d ever seen it before?