I saw an exhibit today by contemporary artist Robert Ryman at Dia: Beacon in Beacon, NY. There is a consistency among Ryman’s work; he’s covered the surfaces of all his canvases with white paint. It’s the sort of exhibit you might say, “I could do that!” The museum, clearly, thought Ryman’s work was important. They devoted two rooms to Ryman’s white paintings. On first inspection Ryman’s paintings appear the same, but a closer look will demonstrate subtle differences. Ryman’s sole use of white is his way of exploring the meaning of painting. He is reported during the 1960s to have said “there is never a question of what to paint, but only how to paint.”
Similarly, there is never any question what writers should write. We write what we know. But how do we go about writing our stories? With words, of course! Writers share a similar foundation of words. We have a wealth of human language, slang, onomatopoeia, and literary license to enhance our choices. As paint alone does not define the artist, words alone do not define a writers. Artists and writers are judged on the way they convey emotion and images, and how they connects with their audience.
If you give ten people the same fifty words, it’s likely there will be ten different outcomes. There will be some that can be characterized by humor, wisdom, rhyme or nonsense.
As writers our job is not to stick to a recipe, a convention. We all have unique points of view. Practice writing. Take the time to find and develop your voice. Once you have done this, then it is time to work on refining your craft, because there is no excuse for poor writing. But that is a subject for later.
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