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13.9.08

One Thousand Words

I’m a cover artist, and if you’ve read many e-books, you’ve probably seen my work. I consider myself lucky to do what I love for a living, but I’ll let you in on a little secret; I do it out of sheer laziness.

In my youth, I wanted to write -- volumes of epic science fiction and fantasy with some romance and comedy thrown in to keep it interesting. I’d diagram characters’ family trees and outline their biographies, and I’d spend hours and hours coming up with first lines and writing first chapters. I’d fill spiral-bound notebooks with my notes -- names, ages, quirks, and a miscellany of details. I even went so far as to get an honors writing degree at my university.

I wasn’t bad at writing, either. Nearly all of my teachers loved my work.

Yet here I am, putting covers on other people’s words instead of coming out with books of my own, and do you know why? Laziness.

Alongside all the written notes in my spiral-bound notebooks were quick little portrait sketches of the characters -- a shorthand for the physical character descriptions. The self-taught witch named Jinx had red hair in braids, green eyes, and a sweet disposition. Her best friend Todd had darker red hair that flopped over his forehead, blue eyes, and a puppy dog loyalty to Jinx which was plain to see and which never wavered.

Did I write any of that? No. Instead, I sketched and colored their faces.

The sketches conveyed a whole lot more in less time, less space, and fewer strokes. I was too lazy to do more than that, but I didn’t realize the significance of it. So, for many years, I continued to write first lines full of lengthy purple prose, adverbs and adjectives bursting out of every clause, the sum total of which would have been evocative of a postcard photo I might have dreamed up, drawn, or seen. Each line was written, re-written, and further revised until I got it right -- not only the details in the description, but the lyrical rhythm in the meter, the grammatical correctness. Every aspect of the writing became victim to my scrutiny.

Eventually I realized that drawing scenes were quicker. Creating an image as a writing prompt might take all of 30 seconds. Writing a scene to go with the image might take me more than 30 minutes. A book cover, 30 hours. A book manuscript, 30 weeks.

The point is, I’m a cover artist and not a writer because the deadly sin of Sloth rules over me. I admire writers because they have the patience to plot and outline a story and then write it all down in painstaking detail.

But, I say, let them worry about the 1000 actual words. Let me convey the same thing with a single image.

If I tried to write what my images could tell you, the best I could do after twice the work it would take me is 500 words.

Seriously.

2 comments:

LynTaylor said...

Hahah .. Oh dear! It seems we are more similar than I thought April LOL!

Ashley Ladd said...

I know you make it sound simple, but I know it's not. Not for me anyway. I'm in awe of all the artists work. I'll continue to hold you in high esteem.