Monday, June 9, 2014

Working with Words: The Writer as Artist

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Is there a greater pallet? 

We as artists dip our pens, our imaginations, into a great sea. Painters have the rainbow and every vast hue that comes from blending. Those who draw have the enormous monochrome spectrum between black and white - there are so many variants of grey. 

Writers have at their disposal every word ever uttered in every language ever spoken. 

Words transport us away from our everyday into the everyday of someone else, real or imagined. They are little time capsules that, when strung together in just the right way, catapult us into worlds. Worlds that inhabit, coexist with our own yet are invisible until some brave soul illumines their doorways with the light of well placed ink.

The apple trees in the orchard at Crosswicks are growing old. Last winter the beautiful green pie-apple tree died during the ice storms. This summer I notice that the leafing of some of the others is thin. A neighboring farmer friend tells me that these trees have been "winter killed."
~ From Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle

Words give our minds respite from the "here" and "now" and allow us into the space occupied by another. L'Engle wrote from a space of green in New England. She swirls images in four sentences and I see drooping branches, smell over ripe apples, hear them thud as they hit the ground in a soft breeze. I can feel that breeze, pick up an apple, look it over for worms and take a bite. "Green pie-apple" tells me they are sour and my mouth puckers at the thought. The power of words over the physical.

I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away from busyness, time to be. I've long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it's something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don't take enough of it.

What is it about being that frightens us? Writing requires a different sort of being, a different sort of presence. The screen, the paper will hold a bit of our souls when we're through, like the light that shines on an artist's canvass. It's a light that comes from within the artist, whether he or she recognizes it, acknowledges it or believes it to be. Writing requires us to slow down and understand that there are far more things in heaven and earth (Horatio) than are dreamt of in our finite philosophies. It's scary, this slowing, this being. It's scary, this dreaming - these "far more things". But they are there as every true artist knows.

When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening. I will never understand the silent dying of the green pie-apple tree if I do not slow down and listen to what the Spirit is telling me, telling me of the death of trees, the death of planets, of people, and what all these deaths mean in the light of love of the Creator, who brought them all into being, who brought me into being, and you.

We write to create order, to try and make sense of life. We put into words our struggles and our triumphs, pepper our stories with people from our lives and attempt to offer comfort, joy, justice. That's a power of words: to take the reader by the hand and offer a glimpse of another way of being, an alternate reality. The HOPE of "what if?"

Take time to BE this week. Use the lazy days of summer to seek solace in the words of your favorite writers and in the power of your own pen. Don't fear that power; use it! Only you can write the stories you've been given. Only you can paint that particular scene in front of your. Happy writing!


  1. Very profound and beautifully said, Jen.

    The Ibid excepts are wonderful! Ah, if it were only that easy. Just to "be."

    With all of life's complications, this is a luxury many of us can not afford...

    It's definitely worth a try, though.

    Thanks, Jen...

  2. Beautifully expressed, Jennifer. Thank you for the reminder about taking time!

    Mary Montague Sikes

  3. Lots of food for thought here. My being time usually comes in short spurts. I try to make the most of it.

  4. Beautiful reflection.
    This post is a perfect example of why I love your writing.

  5. All of those reasons are why I TRY to choose my words carefully. Often, my filter isn't set on a high enough level and too much garbage gets out. ARRGH! But I'm working on it.

  6. I love the idea that words give us respite from the here and now of our daily lives. Very lovely and very true.

    New follower. Appreciated your stopping by the Write Game to say hello. Please come again.

  7. So true. I'm so used to writing and editing these days that I don't really put much thought into how much soul does go into my work, whether I want it to or not.

    It's only when I almost lost it (some of my work), when I became aware of it again.

  8. Thanks again for all your encouraging thoughts and profound insights. I do enjoy digging through the work of writers I admire and trying to find a little trickle to which I can contribute :D



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Cheers! ~J