Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lighting is Everything

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

"A change is as good as a rest," my grandmother used to say.  I thought she came up with that one herself until I grew up and heard that other people's grandparents said the same thing.  It took me almost that long to appreciate the truth of that proverb.

A musician friend of mine jokes that when he starts to feel songwriter's block, it's time to buy a new instrument. (This fellow, for the record, has more guitars than songs he's actually written.) There is, however, validity to that concept.  If you're a songwriter who plays keyboard, just noodling around on a new synthesizer and having a different variety of sounds at your fingertips will get fresh ideas rolling around.  It inspires chords and progressions you simply never thought to try before.

The same image in black & white and in color
Professional photographers know that the difference between a good photo and a great photo is often in the lighting. You can be as keen and adventurous as you like with the angle, aperture settings and all the rest, but in the end, the proper illumination is critical to capture a classic shot. 

As writers, we seek to capture our vision through the lens of our pens.  When we find it hard to see what that vision is, it can help to see it in a different light, by taking in a change of scenery or trying a different approach.  If you write at your desk all the time, you're attached to the same keyboard, desk, walls, pictures on those walls, etc.  Certainly there's a lot to be said for familiarity, and the quiet environment of our office can be far more preferable to a busy coffee shop (unless you're Sandra Balzo and you're crafting Coffeehouse Mysteries).

But sometimes a bustling, noisy environment can be just the ticket to wake up your muse.  Has your mind ever taken a path less traveled while sitting on a mall bench, observing the madding crowd?  When you're away on vacation, aren't you itching to get back to your computer because of all the new ideas you can't wait to write?

If you write nonfiction exclusively, try your hand at a fiction piece; and vice versa.  If you write all your stories starting at the beginning, try writing the ending first and see what new inspiration comes. If you outline your novels, try writing your next one free form. You're guaranteed to see your familiar craft in a new light. 

Creativity finds its nucleus in change. We can emulate something that's gone before, but to make it something our own requires taking it in a different direction. Once in a while that begins with us trying something new ourselves. As the saying goes, "If you want something you've never had, then you've got to do something you've never done before."

When she told us that a change is as good as a rest, my grandma merely sought to convey that a change of pace can restore peace of mind.  In truth, change can be the spark that ignites the fire that helps us get our writing down.  That's the kind of peace we're always looking for.