Monday, January 19, 2009

Some thoughts on writing

I never gave much thought to the act of writing until I took up a different practice and made comparisons.

Photography (a recently acquired interest of mine) is, I think, not that much different in nature from writing - the word literally means writing with light. Except writing is more entrenched to the human experience than taking photographs, in that the artist's equipment to form his art is built-in. Photography is more like working with a very smart partner compared to writing, which is a sole proprietorship for better or worse.

But we tend to believe that anyone could just pick up a camera and take a decent photo (just as we believe anyone could write a book), it still doesn't discount the fact that a captivating image, like a coherent sentence, involves some thoughts that went on behind its creation.

Because the art is born through the artist himself (vs. a lens-mounted camera), it is easy to mistake writing as more elemental than photography. A photographer plays around with light, shadow, composition, etc. to define his artistic choices. To assist his expression he needs the knowledge of, say, the relationships between aperture, shutter speed and ISO value. But the amazing thing about the mind is that its workings - what we generally call instincts - are so ingrained in our experience that we give no conscious thought to subjects, predicates or any such sentence constructs. You would have thought it doesn't take any more to form a thought than it does clicking the shutter release to snap a photo. You don't normally see the things going on in the black box, as Chase Jarvis calls the photographic process.

If an association has to be made somewhere, then the writer has more in equivalence with the camera than with the photographer. For a person writing is essentially a camera taking off its lens cap and deciding which combination of aperture/shutter speed/ISO to engage before pressing the shutter release - all by itself. Maybe put in another way, a photographer without his camera is like a writer losing his mind!

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