Realizing what that something was, I scanned the horizon one last time and inhaled deeply, then turned and hurried back up the dock to let the couple experience the scene for themselves. I hated to leave that place, but in so many ways it has never left me.
This was a piece I wrote a long time ago in an effort to practice descriptions, using different senses, and painting with words. It’s interesting to drop yourself into a painting and try to really experience it instead of simply looking at it. It’s even more interesting to try and record the experience you have when doing this. I don’t mean simply talking about it though. I feel like it’s so easy to fall into the trap of merely telling our readers what we think instead of showing them, but having an experience yourself is always more engaging than just reading about it. Our task as writers is to use that fact to our advantage and do our best to allow our reader to have those experiences for themselves.
Research suggests that certain parts of our brain are unable to tell the difference between reality and a well-simulated reality. This means that we can make our readers laugh, cry, and be upset over events that never happened. We can even make them fall in love with people who don’t even exist in the real world – but the key is to be able to immerse them in our created worlds. If we cannot learn to master the art of showing, our readers will never be able to fully engage with our writing.
If you want to try this, find a painting that resonates with you and put yourself into it. Make sure you describe what it would be like to be there, not just what’s happening or what you see in the painting. I tried to make mine into a sort of narrative, but that’s optional. Make sure you share your finished product! Don’t be afraid of sharing your work. Not ever piece has to be a masterpiece, and we cannot create the masterpieces unless we’re willing to sketch and try out new things.
Finally, remember that you do not have to be published to be a great writer. Vincent Van Gogh (the artist whose painting inspired me to write this piece) sold only one painting in his entire lifetime, and yet today he is one of the most well-known painters of all time. He could have decided that his work wasn’t appreciated or worthwhile. He could have stopped painting and done something else with his life, but he loved to paint. He painted for the love of painting. He didn’t let people tell him that he couldn’t achieve his dreams, and he didn’t let his lack of success stop him from trying to achieve those dreams. He is my favorite painter not only because his paintings move me, but because his unfailing determination to achieve his dreams inspires me to not give up on mine.
- The night after the accident I thought I heard the squeaking of wheels and faint laughter in the unfinished basement. In the morning I found his twisted tricycle in the middle of the floor with little bloody hand prints on the handlebars.
- One day I found that something had gotten into the cereal in my pantry, so I set out a mouse trap for it. I had to move after I found the naked, miniature body of human being crushed in the trap.
- Before she got sick, my daughter loved riding our willow tree in rainstorms. Sometimes on stormy nights I still see her shining eyes and long, wet hair swaying in the upper branches between flashes of lightning.
- The boy cast his line into pond and reeled quickly, like his dad had showed him before he disappeared. The line caught on something and wouldn’t budge—until the boy pulled with all his might, and out of the water flopped his father’s severed head, hooked right through the lip.
- They told me a woman had been trapped and burned to death in the house, but that didn’t bother me too much. Until a particularly hot summer night when I watched in horror as paint was violently scraped from the walls by frantic, invisible fingernails.