Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Trying To Stay Inside The Lines

As well as being a source of entertainment for me, I firmly believe that writing is the exercise of a form of artistry. Oh don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself an artist, or even a half-decent cartoonist (no insult intended to cartoonists). What I mean is that like those who are truly capable with either pencils or brushes, I try as best I can to communicate by painting pictures (in my case word pictures). I then labor to frame these likenesses carefully with facts, shade them with considered judgment and opinion, and color them with sarcasm, metaphor, and hyperbole. (Hell, sometimes I even manage to stay inside the lines.) 

Like many art forms, there are truly gifted professionals out there whose literary efforts can make one's own seem so poor as to leave them almost impossible to hang on the refrigerator, let alone display in public. For me, it's reading the prose of virtuosos like George Will and Charles Krauthammer that make me almost ashamed that I decide to sit down in front of a keyboard each week. Their ability, while almost terrifying in nature, makes me wish that I had the time, the training, and the ability to depict the world around me as they are capable of doing. In fact, I often find myself avoiding efforts on subjects that they have covered in sheer embarrassment over what my own poor examples will look like by comparison. 

I am equally humbled when I hear someone like Dennis Miller go off on a verbal rant and use rapid-fire comparative imagery so far above my head that it gives me a nosebleed, and I have to Google search it before reaching even the most rudimentary level of understanding. Such a combination of intelligence, wit, and humor is indeed rare and I am thankful that I have been exposed to it. There are also those whose efforts draw slightly less attention on the national stage, but who are likewise worthy of praise. I could name a half dozen at least whose efforts I read with relish every week (and who if they somehow find themselves reading this, will probably know who they are), but won't risk their names and reputations by associating my own opinions and faint praises with their extensive creative attainments. 

Of course there are likewise all too many of us amateurs out here who labor in relative obscurity by reason of either a lack of ability, lack of desire, or lack of opportunity. We too have something to contribute, if only as a caution to others or caricature of real talent. But we need not write ourselves off too quickly or completely, as we sometimes discover that 'even a blind squirrel finds an acorn now and again'. Every once in a while, even we are surprised with an idea not yet brought to light or a writing effort worthy of more than passing consideration. 

The humility unwillingly forced on some of us by the talent demonstrated by our betters provides more than humiliation however, it affords us inspiration as well. Anyone who loves a challenge cannot help but be enamored of having the bar placed so high in order to force us to improve our own meager talents. Those who love the idea of competition (and are too old, broken down, and overweight to continue to further attempts at athletics) find this exactly the type of contest that we are still capable of entering. It's easy enough to recognize the simple fact that in the end, not all of us can be a DaVinci (I for one can't do the codes) or Van Gogh (I need both ears so I can listen to my Ipod)

Some of us may simply have to settle for painting 'Dogs Playing Poker' or 'Elvis on Velvet'. It may never be displayed in a museum, but it might at least make it to some starving artist show at the local Holiday Inn, and from there come to be appreciated on the wall in someone's living room. I cannot promise that I will always manage to stay within the lines of good writing, good sense, or even good taste; I do affirm however, that each will at the very least be my best effort.

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