Wordcrafting has always been my chosen course of study. From a young age, I would stay up late into the night carving fantasy worlds from the bedrock of imagination and transforming them with each stroke of the keypad into words on a computer screen. There are few things more satisfying that untangling the knotted mass of plot threads in your head and slowly unraveling them on the page in just the right order . . . so when you look back, you can see the many colored strands drawing you to the glorious resolution on the final page. I love the written word. And yet, although nothing could ever make me wish myself free of the call of the pen, there are times when I’m heartily—woefully—jealous of a completely different talent. I wish I was an artist. There are so many incredibly talented people out there who can take the images in their heads and faithfully reproduce them in magnificent explosions of color and ink. Beautiful. Orderly. Breathtaking. My own attempts frequently resemble explosions of a far less pleasing sort.
I am in awe of the artist’s ability. It’s a talent all its own. Oh I can get by with a sketch pad and pencil … and a horde of erasers at my beck and call. Whenever the mood takes me, I’ll pluck out my old sketchpad and work to keep my hand and eye in “practice.” Mainly characters or scenes that I’m working on. This past week, in a fit of mad courage, I started experimenting with watercolors. And amidst the wild mass of colors and scattered brushes and splattered paint, I realized at last … That I am an artist. Oh I may not possess the skill with a paint and brush that some do … nor the ability to capture life on a pad with a few strokes of a pen. Nor can I compose melodies or lyrics that will set your heart on fire and your soul yearning for what is to come. I am an artist of a different sort. Words are my paint and my song. As a writer, I etch a little piece of my heart into every page. I strive to capture both beauty and truth, reality and hope in print. Books are so much more than rigid lines of black and white ink marching endlessly across the pages. They are things of wondrous color and beauty. The wildest dreams of a wild imagination … grounded in reality.
Whenever I think of the writing process, I cannot help recalling this scene from William Goldman’s The Princess Bride about artistry at work:
Domingo slept only when he dropped from exhaustion. He ate only when Inigo forced him to. He studied, fretted, complained. He never should have taken the job; it was impossible.
The next day he would be flying; he never should have taken the job; it was to simple to be worth his labors.
Joy to despair, joy to despair, day to day, hour to hour …
One night Inigo woke to find his father seated. Staring. Calm. Inigo followed the stare. The six fingered sword was done. Even in the hut’s darkness, it glistened.
“At last,” Domingo whispered. He could not take his eyes from the glory of the sword. “After a liftetime. Inigo. Inigo. I am an artist.”
I may not have reached the level of artistry Domingo reached when he created the six fingered sword. But if nothing else, I am an artist in the making, and I can be content with that. How about you? Do consider yourself an artist, whether you paint with words or a brush, or create music with lyrics or instrument?