“My share of the work may be limited, but the fact that it is work makes it precious.”
Fingers on Keyboard
Writing Oh Lightly
How brave those writers must be! Ever since that first caveman put his hand in the ashes of a fire and left his handprint on the wall to say, “This is me.” writers have been putting their lives, their thoughts, their stories and their love out there for the world to see and discover.
The hunt-and-peckers like myself, the urge to write is the urge to finish. We race through the work to get to The End. It is satisfying to finish something and every one of us should be happy to see an idea through to the end. That feeling of being done is a good one, but you and I know that we raced through the work with little thought to words. Sometimes with little thought at all except the basic message. There is so much more than a handprint on the wall.
Stephen King talks about building a toolbox. The writers write all day long. They save everything. They build tools to have at hand when they are on to something.
Let’s illustrate the idea of building a toolbox of tools.
I don’t have them as a writer but I do have them as a lighting designer. This comes from decades of experience in many situations. Would that I had writing tools too!
You’ve seen a play, I’ll bet. We’ll guess that the director has had the actor cross from stage right to stage left for a reason. We can pretend, today, that it is an important reason.
Here are six tools in my lighting tool box:
- Do nothing at all, let the actor do the work.
- Brighten the area stage left, pulling him into the space.
- Slowly dim the other lights except stage left, increasing his isolation. This would be for the “to be or not to be” speech.
- Drop all of the lights except the backlights putting him in silhouette. This suggests the passing of time, sometimes a lot of time like decades in his life.
- Add low-angle red lights underneath it all, he is angry or passionate. Or, pick a neutral color like lavender if he is conflicted.
- Drop all of the lights into a black out and slowly add one single down-light stage left for him to cross over and into. Massive alone-time thinking!
Boom, six ideas while sitting here at the keyboard with no script, no actor and no director. No scenery either. The toolbox is loaded with solutions, even for a simple cross from right to left. It would take me years of writing to build a toolbox like that for writing.
Reading the recent Mueller Report, I am delighted at the writing skills. The report is legal and precise and also written to be read by you and me. Each word has carefully been chosen so that it is understood and cannot be twisted or mis-used. These writers are a master at their craft.
Why did John Steinbeck spend so much time on a turtle slowly crossing a highway? He had a lot to say and a huge cast and a story to tell. How did he resist the urge to race to the The End? Brilliant story-telling, he spent time on that turtle for a reason; maybe it was a metaphor for the slow Oklahoma life and the dangers our cast will face driving to California. I don’t know, but it is there and good and right.
It is a little bit like the musical Oklahoma. Eventually a ballet breaks out, telling another story to tell this story. Abstract, a little bit but we get it. It isn’t mysterious.
I think that the Blog Rules can go away now. The writing does not have to be short and quick nor is it a diary. When Julian Assange dumped the Democratic e-mails from Guccifer 2.0 into the world, he used WordPress. We can allow ourselves to get wordy, the software and the reader can handle it.
Sharpen your tools! It is time for you to write.