Food? Did someone say food? Excuse me while I go get a little something to help me think this through. Something tasty and healthy. Something chocolate. Now, where were we? Oh yes, I was in the middle of working out a writing problem and I got stuck. So I did what every self-respecting author does in that situation—went for the chocolate. In my case, dark with almonds.
I admit it. When I’m writing and things aren’t going well (or even if they are going well) I frequently feed my body, when I should be feeding my mind. I frequently tell myself that “today” when I feel the urge to eat something to spur me on, instead I’ll go for a walk and take a close look at my surroundings. Or read a few pages in a book, or look at an art book.
A few years ago, I discovered a really great way to feed my thinking. I had the feeling that my writing was missing something—that I needed to learn to be more observant. So I signed up for a watercolor class. Now you have to understand, I had never so much as learned to draw a box. But I lucked out and got a teacher who said drawing wasn’t part of her teaching. She wanted her students to look closely at things. Her philosophy was that if you had a clear vision of what you were seeing, you could translate it to your medium. She taught me not let my “interpretation” get in the way of my vision. To my surprise, it worked. Before, if I had tried to draw something, I always ended up with a muddle. Now I found myself not drawing what I thought I saw, but what I really saw.
I’ve taken many art classes since then, not with the idea of ever showing my work or being a visual artist, but practicing seeing what’s really there—giving myself food for thought. Now when I describe a scene, I make myself see what is really “there,” to translate it to the reader so she can see it, too. I read too many books in which an author does what I think of as “lazy” describing—a shorthand way of describing what’s really there. They’ll have a character “rub her nose,” or “pick at a thread,” when if they really described what was there, the character “would rub her red, chapped nose,” or “pick at the frayed edge of her sleeve.” Really learning to see the world is nourishing for a writer.
But--that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning chocolate.