When I write, I generally start by sketching the outlines of a scene. What’s happening? What are the goals of the characters? What goes wrong, or erupts, or turns the scene on its head? When I rewrite, I try to go deeper: to ramp up conflict, explore the characters’ emotions, heighten the tension, add surprises and twists.
Then I take a step back to see what I’ve got. Often, I need to let somebody else read my work to find out what I’ve missed, and what depths are hidden in the story.
That’s how I felt when I saw this painting.
I was walking down a city sidewalk when I passed an art gallery with this work in the window. I was struck by the painting — it captured the southwest I remember from childhood summer road trips. Route 66 gets me every time.
I wondered who the artist was. Then I looked beyond the frame of the painting, at the artist’s photo on the wall of the gallery to the right. And at his name on the back wall, partially visible behind the painting. And I re-calibrated everything I’d been seeing, and thinking, about the exhibit, and the painting, and the artist.
The guy is busy. No wonder he had to skip the Nobel Prize ceremony.
My point? Whether walking down the street, or listening to your kids, or doing research, or writing fiction… or songs…
You’ve got to take a second look, and a third. Reevaluate. Look deeper. Pay attention. See the whole scene, and look at it with fresh eyes. Because you never know the true scope of what’s there until you step back and really see.
In the photo, my image is faintly visible in the glass. Every creative work reflects the artist.