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How to Write Crisp, Evocative Descriptions: Keep Your Vision Alive (8)

“Follow the example of poets A. R. Ammons
and Jorie Graham: take up painting or sketching
as a way of keeping your vision new.”

Rebecca McClanahan

McClanahan doesn’t explain how taking art lessons can improve one’s writing, but I have first-hand knowledge of how painting or sketching helps us write better. When you’re sketching or painting something or someone, you don’t think, you look at the details, and see beyond the details. You train your eyes and mind to be observant, to notice how the light “paints” on the subject. The result is an interpretation that is truly and uniquely yours.

McClanahan suggests another exercise:”Or follow the example of writer Frye Gaillard, who claims to have a bad ‘visual memory.’ When he visits a place or interviews a subject, he takes detailed notes on what he sees, later expanding the notes into sensory descriptions.”

 My attempts at painting

“If description is the flowering, it is also the root and stem of effective writing,” wrote Rebecca McClanahan in her book, Word Painting, A Guide to Writing More Descriptively. I’m reading this book because I meet my Waterloo every time I have to describe something in writing. I honestly feel this makes my writing flowerless. This is such a good book and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to write well. I’ll be using this blog to take notes as I read through this book, so this post is part of a series. I hope you’ll learn along with me.


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