(Thoughts on a rainy day with time to write.)
I’ve spent the last few days at Oak Island. And I’ve come to a conclusion.
I hate sand, but I love the beach.
As odd as that may seem at first, it speaks volumes about me as a person.
There are four things in my life for which I am passionate about the details. The first is music. I love to play music. But I don’t particularly like music played poorly. I’m really only interested in playing music well, and playing well requires an enormous attention to detail – from deciding who’s going to play, to the songs, to the instrumentation, the arrangements, the execution and the allowable artistic license. I can immerse myself in the details of musical performance and completely forget to come up for air.
The second is design. There is so much detail involved in something well-designed. It starts with an understanding of broad visual concepts, but quickly evolves into a complex collection of nuances. Subtle differences in color choice, for example, not only impacts the effectiveness of the communication but can also affect the physiology of the observer. The rods and cones in one’s eyes react to color combinations, and the result of those reactions is either positive (harmonious and pleasing) or negative (dysfunctional or worse, nauseating). If you don’t believe it, look at light blue and pink side-by-side and note the effect it has on you. And color is just one aspect of design and doesn’t account for typography, positioning, balance, frame or dozens of other critical factors of good design.
(As a side, I never cease to be amazed at how some people, never having been faced with the blank page, seem to miraculously know so much about design when it comes to the critique.)
Then, there is writing. Good writing isn’t simply stringing together words and phrases. It is organizing one’s thoughts, then attaching words and phrases with proper grammar and engaging syntax. It is akin to a mason building a stone wall. Each stone has a character all its own. Yet, when positioned alongside one another and held together with the right amount of mortar, the wall becomes a thing of beauty.
And it isn’t just any words or phrases, but the right words and phrases. Mark Twain once said, “the difference between the word and the right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” There is nothing more lugubrious to me than seeing someone use less when it should be fewer, mute when it should be moot or, well, you choose.
I can only hope that my generous and intentional use of effect and affect in my discussion of design is correct. But never fear. I have readers who I am confident will correct me if it is not.
(As another aside, there are far fewer good writers than there are those who believe themselves to be good writers. Having a laptop and MSWord doesn’t make one a writer any more than having a banjo makes one a banjo player, as Aprill can now attest.)
Last, but far from least, is my marriage to Aprill. Living successfully as a couple is all about attending to the details. We’ve learned how important it is to dot the Is and cross the Ts or, at least, to make a strong effort.
All that being written, I don’t consider myself a perfectionist. I’m never 100% successful in any of these. I fail frequently, and I’m fine with that. But it’s not from a lack of trying.
So what does any of this have to do with the sand and the beach? It’s this:
Life is the beach; life is the sand; and there is no way to separate the two. Even though I seem to have little interest in many of life’s details, they are an integral part of life. It takes a lot of sand to make a beach.
At the same time, the big pictures…what I love most…are painted with many individual strokes. The beach doesn’t exist where there is no sand.
So my life lesson is this. The next time I feel like I’m covered with the sand of life’s details, I will remember it’s the sand that gives me the beaches that I love.