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A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

I recently went to an “Art in the Park” day and found the most wonderful photograph. For those authors among us, you know how a single picture can create a whole story in your mind. The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is truly the case for at least this writer. In fact, I’m sure all of us, whether writers or readers, can relate to seeing a picture that instantly reminds us of some forgotten memory or adventure from our childhood.

I have a small picture on a note card with an old fashioned girl’s bike, wicker basket on the front, leaning against a piece of fence at a beach. There’s white sand, tall grasses and the ocean off in the distance. I’m in the process of writing a story prompted by that picture. As yet, I’m not sure why the woman rode her bike to the beach that particular day or what she does. My hero finds it parked there, on his private beach, when he returns home from work one night. And thus starts a story of unknown elements and combustible passion. Personally I can’t wait to see what happens when these two meet!

But that’s not the photograph I wanted to tell you about. The picture I bought, by Beth Ridenour of Lawrence, KS (, is of a white coffee cup full of crayolas – every color imaginable. The tips are up, and while it appears some have been used, they are still relatively new. (Remember that box of crayons you got for the first day of school, and how the first time you used them, you laid them out on your desk, all the tips nice and new, all pointing the same direction? And remember how mad/frustrated/upset you were the first time one of the tips snapped clear off?) So all this was running through my head when I saw the photo. And yet, that wasn’t why I bought it.

I asked my married daughter what she noticed about the picture. She said, “It’s crayons.”

She didn’t see what I saw. Just to the left of center in that cupful of crayons, a single green crayon was upside down. That’s me, I thought, the different one in the pack; the unique one. The one who doesn’t want to follow the same path as others; who wants to do something that makes me stand out from the crowd.

That single, distinctive crayon represents so many diverse things in my life. Taking an uncommon path; making a change to a completely different career; writing something so out of the ordinary it stretches my imagination and makes me look in new directions. It marks a difference in my way of thinking, feeling, reacting.

Here’s a little exercise to see how many crayons you would fit in a coffee cup and which ones, if any, are upside down. Make a list of all the titles you could be labeled with – like daughter, sister, mother, weaver, author, golfer, etc. This can include anything you are or do, or like to do, hobby or job. Some of us will be a box of 8, 16, or 24 crayons and others might even end up being the one we all envied in school – the box of 64 with the built in sharpener! Did you even realize there were so many different colors to your life? Are some of them more used than others? Which is the one that you would turn upside down – the one that sets you apart, or the one that you feel is more important than any other crayon that is you?

As an author, I portray the world my characters live in, all the emotions they feel and things they do, with words. Words are my crayons. I have numerous shades of each color, because not all passion is torrid, not all facial expressions are smiles, and my characters do not always just walk. The more colors I can use, the more vivid the picture I can give my readers. I think one of the reasons I love writing romance is because the passion and “aliveness” of it are just like the colors I love – reds, blues, yellows, oranges. Using brilliant, vibrant words make my writing come alive and resonate.

The glorious wonder of both words and colors is that there are enough different shades to satisfy everyone. Whether you like romance, comedy, murder/mystery or fantasy; whether you write it or read it, enjoy the opportunity to color your world with words.

Color me happy!
Bobbie Russell


Lisabet Sarai said...

Bobbie, I loved this post! As someone who has finally accepted the fact that I am not, and never will be, normal, I can only smile at your wisdom.

bobbie russell said...

Is there even a definition for "normal"? I grin when I think of that, and always use quotes around the word! Fact of the matter, I enjoy NOT being normal!