There are times when I wonder why I write. I used to paint, obsessively. I did so for twenty years. I think my lowest point—caught in the worst of the obsession—was when I ignored Thanksgiving dinner for hours because I had to get one gesture right and the paint wasn’t cooperating. This is what painting is, actually, telling a story using only visual clues. It’s not as easy as you might think at first blush. I still paint, just not as obsessively. I’ve transferred that obsession to writing.
I’ve heard effective writing described as word painting. In a way they’re the same skill. We understand story through our emotions. But our emotions can only be reached through sensual cues, and these include sounds, tastes, the visual details. I was reading an arcane book called Touching Vision, about an art historian discussing the ideas of art restoration, and for all the learned advice it still comes down to one basic element: how does one human transmit emotion to another?
Stories are. They exist. They have for longer than time and out of the millions of stories, the ones each of us remembers most vividly are those that touched our emotions, our experiences. We are different, and yet we are the same. The goal of the writer, just as for the artist, is to communicate what is important to human existence, as we interpret it from our own experience. That experience might be mundane. It might be heroic and span universes. It is unique. Story needs to combine that universal human experience with the unique emotions of the reader who connects to the author, across the gap between.
Between what, you ask? What kind of sentence is that?
It’s the kind of sentence that hopes to spark the imagination.
Words have power. They have life.
Perhaps they even have magic.