Over at Dumb Sketch Daily I’ve attempted a couple abstractions (per my brave declaration), and the sketching process is starting to become clear: recognize the heart of an image and work with the essential shapes. A few of my art-minded interlocutors (Kerfe, Larry Zink, and Laura of course) have contributed to my slow understanding of the process. It’s really a hands-on thing: One learns by doing.
Today’s writing process involves at least one project where I must also reduce and abstract. But “abstract” seems the wrong word: I must locate the essential bit and then work to make that piece clear, understandable and compelling. Oddly enough, clarity sometimes flows better through comparison than it does through paragraphs of didactic copy. And that may be the point of abstraction. An image can remind of something entirely opposite. Abstraction can become an emotional bypass. But it need not be anti-intellect. Especially if it causes someone to stop and think.
Looking for essential bones of an idea may be my favorite thing about writing: locating the bones and laying them bare. More and more I’m finding those idea-bones are best expressed through analogy or metaphor, where a simple image paired with simple words replaces long and labored explanation.
Boiling down and locating essence may be a life lesson for me. It’s far easier to do for clients than it is my own ideas.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston