J. H. Sked, author of Basement Blues
Does being a writer affect the way you view the world?
I think it does. I think writing teaches you to observe the world around you, in much the same way training as an artist teaches you to see everyday objects in a different way. I also think that observation is a muscle, that you can either develop or let wither, in pretty much the same way.
My first year art lecturer told us on our first day that we were looking instead of seeing. He said that one day, through practice and repetition, we’d start to see what we were drawing. (It’s one of the reasons first year art classes involve inordinate amount of still life with fruit scenarios.)
So I drew. And drew. I drew for months, and never noticed a change. My class-mates got it pretty early, and their work took off. Mine did not.
I remember sitting in art class, wondering miserably when I was going to get “it”; this magical way of looking at things that everyone else was gasping about. I wanted to give up. What kept me going was the unending encouragement of my (very) patient lecturer, the fact that I’d paid for a very expensive year in advance, and sheer bloody-minded stubbornness.
Near the end of the first semester, with that horrible pile of fruit beginning to disintegrate in a puddle of mush, I looked up from my sketchpad, and I saw.
Picture the first time you saw a 3D movie, minus the awful glasses and headache.
Now imagine that this is your world, what you see around you on a daily basis. Something as mundane as light reflecting off a doorknob becomes an object of beauty. You don’t just see the doorknob. You see the curves, the reflections on the surface, the shadows beneath and around it that help form the shape.
Training yourself to observe is remarkably similar. There is no such thing as a mundane object. There is no such thing as an ordinary person. Writing can be the ultimate exercise is voyeurism, and writing forces you to examine your world and everything in it.
As a writer, I live in a world of wonder, and I am so very, very thankful for it.
J H Sked was born in South Africa and moved to London, England in 2003. She currently shares a flat with a long-suffering house-mate, a pot plant, several hundred books and a kindle.
WolfSong (Tales from the Crescent) is the first in a projected trilogy. Basement Blues introduces a new series, The Blue Moon Detective Agency stories.