Originally published in Sorbet Colonel
If you show a banker four different shades of yellow and ask him to describe them, he will mention the word yellow four times. Sometimes using adjectives like light or dark. An experienced painter would probably not use such a general term – rather, he would describe them as maize, sunglow, jonquil, and aureolin. Because the requirements of his craft have earned him a broader range of vocabulary, his perception of colors has become richer than the average person’s. Take a walk on a rocky beach with a geologist, and while you will be stepping on pebbles, he will be marching on dolostones, milestones, gray slag, and white chert.
Make no mistake: writing is a craft, a very difficult one to master. A writer’s number one task is to read. Continuously. To be curious about anything and everything. Short stories by young writers and timeless classics. Simple words, complex words, easy words, challenging words, accessible words, hermetic words, everyday words, technical words, cool words, annoying ones too. Write them down. And learn them. Mastering new words every single day truly transforms our reality. A new world. A more opulent and more colorful one.
A writer’s second task is to be truthful in his writing. Truthful to his perception. To write what he perceives as accurately as possible, as honestly as imaginable. Great writers have sharper eyes, enhanced ears, stronger noses, delicate tongues, a sensitive touch. Their senses have been trained by the mastery of language. They perceive hidden specks of life that no one else expects. Tiny particles of emotions. Undetected by other people. Unsuspected by other people. And if perception can be taught, truthfulness must be felt by the reader. Honest writing is always felt by the reader.
Curiosity and honesty is where writing begins.