photo by Brian Dickinson
Writing, I think, is much like photography, painting, sculpture or music: the subject matter is infinite, the meanings, profound – all because of the intricacies and myriad forms of life on our planet. My talent, such as it is, is pretty much confined to writing, though I love to photograph the nearby woods and to play my piano. Painting and sculpture? I can’t do either, but I can certainly appreciate good works.
As with all forms of art, writing helps to reveal our spirit and emotions to others. I admire writers who succeed so well at this and I try to learn from them. Shakespeare comes to mind, as do Margaret Atwood, Richard Bach, Jared Diamond, Arthur C. Clark and a host of others. They write in the gigantic book that is the Earth. They are my mentors and I am inspired by them.
There is something to learn from each book I read, whether it’s an autobiography, novel, or non-fiction. I’ve learned that detail makes a piece of writing come alive on the page because it draws the reader into the words. Detail is akin to a multi-coloured painting or a complex composition by Bach or Beethoven: it holds our interest.
At the same time, simplicity, the antithesis of detail, can be emotionally explosive, especially black-and-white photographs of people or landscapes hung over by rain clouds. So, too, can a colour photograph of a single, tiny, five-petal flower, mesmerizing the viewer with its beauty.
Where does a writer get ideas? That’s the common question. The answer is – from Everywhere; from Anywhere; from inside oneself; from conflict among humans or in Nature; from situations; from newspaper articles; from bland descriptions that can flame into a story... Never has there been a single answer.
As does a good photographer, painter, sculptor or musician, with any piece of writing I am trying to tell a story in the best way I can. Yet it is often a mere snapshot in time, catching a momentary situation on a certain day or in a particular year or over several years or decades. I think my steam train stories, published in the anthology, Through the Window of a Train, are like that.
Subject matter is infinite and I wish the days were longer, my energy unlimited, and my writing ability, too! There is so much to say.
~ Manuel Erickson
Moderator's note: Manuel Erickson is a contributing author to the Cowichan Valley Arts Café. Find a list of his here.