My writing space is pretty dismal. Oh, it’s a nice enough room, as rooms go, but it’s glacial in winter and blistering in summer. It’s in an older apartment building so there’s little insulation. But there are windows so there is light, but not much in late fall and winter.
If you’re a morning person or even if you’re not, you know the importance of those initial hours. When you’re stumbling from the bedroom (even after coffee) to sit down and write, hobbling into a cold, dark tomb of a writing space doesn’t help. In those first hours, even with windows, my writing room is dark. My soul feels dark, too.
One advantage of this inner darkness, partly inspired and partly caused by outer darkness, is that it has a settling effect. It weights me, emotionally, to my writing chair. Since there’s nothing else, I’m left to write, until the day opens up and light comes, which sometimes takes hours. In winter, the light seems on some days not to be there at all. It makes me consider how important seeing, even when it’s not with outward vision, is to writing, not to mention everything else.
In the book Writing Fiction, a Guide to Narrative Craft, Janet Burroway writes this in her chapter on showing versus telling, and it applies to other writing forms as well: “The points to be made here are two, and they are both important. The first is that the writer must deal in sense detail. The second is that these must be details ‘that matter.’” Note the essentials—sensory detail and details that matter. Any details the writer includes must appeal to the reader’s senses and must be relevant, even thematic, in what writer is writing.
As I write, it’s Saturday afternoon. The sun shines brightly against the blue, and the neighboring Crimson King maple clings to its remaining leaves. A flock of Canadian geese wends southward in chevron flight. Amazing what you can see when there’s light.
Tip: Select a piece of writing where you have told instead of shown. Rewrite the passage from an emotional perspective rather than a strictly visual one.