I had a letter last week from an old friend back home in England. She lives in a farmhouse tucked into a hollow with higher land behind it. In her letter she enclosed a greeting card printed from an artist’s impression of her home.
Her house, to me, had always been warm and welcoming inside but perhaps not very impressive outside – a plain working farmhouse, and nothing wrong with that.
But the artist had seen it differently. She had seen the coziness of a house tucked into a hollow of land. If my friend ever wanted to sell her house this picture would be a major asset.
Now, true, perhaps the trees looked a little bushier than they actually are, and one tree looked taller. Maybe the curve of the lane is a little wider than reality, and the soft summer colors will not be seen year-round.
But it is recognizably her farmhouse. She was amazed when she saw it. Imagine her, she wrote, living in a house an artist wanted to paint!
The artist was just that – an artist in paint, able to see with a creative eye what the rest of us had missed.
Your writing is like that. (You knew where this was going, didn’t you?) You see an incident or a person and your artist-with-words eye sees it deeper, richer and more vivid than anyone else.
Your artist’s eye gives it a context and meaning that reveals the incident or the person in a new light. I had never noticed that the farmhouse nestled under the slope like that. I just saw a farmhouse with fields and some barns, plain and unremarkable.
But the artist showed me that whoever built that house a couple of hundred years ago knew what they were doing. They built to give the house the benefit of maximum shelter from the winter winds and rain of Yorkshire.
They may not have realized what a bonny picture it would make once that front field became a garden, but they took care to give the house – and everyone who would live there – all the warmth and security the site allowed.
I never noticed that careful positioning of the farmhouse before. It took an artist of last year to show me the mind of the builder back in history.
Can we do that with our writing? Can we even aim for that kind of revelation? I think one of the finest compliments a writer can get is, “Oh! I never thought of it that way before.”
You changed, ever so slightly, someone’s thinking. You might even have changed their perspective. That’s not easy to do, but that’s the value of being an artist with words.