Springtime in the Bay Area, USA alters the landscape in a lovely way. Around February, March and April nature erupts into a mad profusion of flowers on the ground as well as above. There are these almost other-worldly looking large pink and white flowers – a type of Magnolia – on some trees. On others, dainty, smaller pink and white flowers can be seen. As the weeks pass, below in the grass, the wild mustard creates a yellow riot and the slopes of the freeway embankments are covered by flowery carpets of different hues.
Another color that catches one’s eye is vanilla white, on the ornamental flowering pear tree. This entire tree undergoes a spectacular transformation, flaunting an outfit of pure white. Barely a green leaf peeping through, the white flowers are bunched together tightly, standing out starkly against the dark stem and branches. If viewed from out of context, it looks as if there is snow on the tree tops!
When the sky is cloudy and the light is diffused, these beauties look even more striking among the other shades of green. As the season progresses and the petals start to shed, they swirl around in gusts of air, especially when one is driving, with the small white bits spinning towards the car like delicate snowflakes. Fairy-dust!
It was while watching one such magical gust from the car that I looked up in spell-bound wonder at this entire street that had its sides flanked in white by the trees. I remembered that at another time, my husband had expressed his desire to capture that very same view in his camera. I was in a hurry to reach somewhere but I wished, too, at that time, that I could stop the car and freeze the beauty in front of me.
This brought to my mind a related conversation I had with my husband some time ago. As many readers may know, he is an avid photographer (although at this time of my writing, his photography is intermittent, a state that hopefully will change for the better). That day he had just finished post-processing a photograph he had clicked. Gazing at the stunning result, I enviously said, “This is beautiful. Look how fast you created this work of art! If I were to write a short story, it feels like it takes me ages. And the consumption of a photograph is fast too. People take it in between a mere blink of an eye. For my blog post or short story they might first scroll down to see how long my prose is before they begin reading (or decide not to if it seems too long!)”
He laughed and said, “it’s because of the instant gratification aspect of photography that there are so many people pursuing photography compared to fewer who write or paint.”
What he was saying was true. There is a difference in numbers when it comes to the seconds ticking behind certain creative pursuits. Of course, neither he nor I wish to devalue photography at all. Every form of art is unique and precious in its own way. And after all, isn’t there a saying, “a picture speaks a thousand words”? This conveys the immense power of pictures, no doubt. But it also aptly indicates that the amount of effort needed to produce written content versus visuals is far more. And those “thousand words” can’t just be any words; they have to work hard to qualify as ‘art’ and deliver the same effect as the picture does.
The main reason behind the comparison between writing and photography being discussed in our household was only borne out of the experience of struggling to find time to write to create something meaningful versus capturing the same by a camera. Even revising the first draft takes a long time versus post-processing a photograph.
Here, another thought popped up in my mind. What about painting and crafts like say, crocheting or sculpting? At least with writing (on a computer, not by pen or on a typewriters!) and digital photography (by a sophisticated camera and using software to process it, not by a traditional camera and developing prints in a dark room!), if not satisfactory, one can wipe out what one has done so far or maintain revisions that one can go back to and modify any time. With the other kinds of art, it requires a totally different mindset because of the nature of the work, the materials involved and the finite state that they attain. And how about other art such as music, singing and dancing? One can’t go back and erase mistakes in a live performance. The composure maintained by the artist in the face of pressure to be flawless while performing before thousands of people is truly applause-worthy. Also, such art doesn’t even have tangible physical forms and yet it can produce an enthralling effect that manifests physically in the spectator’s body!
Recently I finished the book ‘The War of Art‘ by Steven Pressfield. Have you ever read a book that knocks you off your feet like a powerful gust of wind? The War of Art felt just like that. A kick in the gut! For anyone who has ever felt a desire again and again to do a particular thing and yet there has been a disconnect between that aspiration and actually fulfilling it, The War of Art is a wake-up call. Although applicable to any endeavor, be it entrepreneurship, gardening, even motherhood, it mainly talks about art and writing. So it felt very relatable to me. That book is like a strict school teacher, concerned parent, psychiatrist and spiritual guru all rolled into one, with one singular message about any activity that is close to one’s heart: “just do it!”
The discussion with my husband and ruminating over The War of Art made me acknowledge and radically accept what a time-consuming process writing is. It emphatically reiterated what I have been learning for some time now: there are no short-cuts involved and time, which is in short supply, what with a day job and a toddler at home, has to be used wisely.
Coming back to that moment while I was admiring those pretty white blossoms mentioned at the start of this post, I was lamenting the absence of a camera to point at them and the skills to capture them in the most effective way. So I tried to store them in my mind’s eye. It would perhaps take me more time but I knew that sooner or later I would be using words to describe and re-experience those lovely flowers and “click” a mental picture of them onto a blank page.