The Artist’s Way

In our 1st and 3rd Saturday writing group, we discuss a wide variety of topics related to writing. Through our conversations, we learn from, and are inspired by, each other. Often, our conversation turns to life experiences and how they impact our writing.

I recall one such experience in a sophomore college course. I can still remember the emotional sting and confusion I felt when my professor returned my essay. “Not enough detail!” was scrawled across the page in her bold handwriting.

Not enough detail? What was she talking about? At the time, I thought I included plenty of detail. My essay covered a wide array of items related to the topic, and to my mind, this was all of the detail that was needed.

It wasn’t until decades later that I fully realized what she meant.

That revelation came after I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and carried out the exercises in the accompanying workbook. If you’ve never read this book, you owe it to yourself and your creative writing dreams to rush out and pick it up immediately. It will change the way you SEE the world around you – and that will lead you to change the way you WRITE about it.

Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and picture a tree – any tree. What do you see in your mind’s eye? How would you describe it?

Before reading The Artist’s Way, I would have answered this question with a description along the lines of “I see a large plant with branches covered with green leaves that spread out in many directions to provide shade for those who sit beneath it.”

After reading The Artist’s Way, however, I found myself noticing details in everything around me, and committing those details to memory.

Houses I’d passed every day and barely noticed suddenly became “the blue clapboard house with the eyebrow windows… the annuals bursting with color along the foundation of a green ranch… the white Cape Cod with black shutters, a wrought-iron railing bordering the front steps and a curving path leading to the street”.

And when I looked at trees, I saw the gnarled, striated bark on the trunk… the branches stretching up and outward, rarely in a straight line… the leaves lit by sunlight on one side …and the ground beneath the tree deeply shaded or less so, depending on the angle of the sun as it filtered through the leaves.

This intense awareness of my surroundings brought with it a joy in writing down the details of a scene, a setting, a character’s thoughts or actions…and the realization that, because of these details, readers would gain more from my writing as they accompany me on my literary journey.

So that’s what my professor meant!

Mary Stramski

Published in: on September 24, 2009 at 3:20 am  Leave a Comment  

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