I was chatting with a friend the other day about flower arrangements.
…Shut up, I’m going somewhere with this.
Anyway, like I said: flower arrangements. She’s a floral designer and was texting me pictures of the pieces she was working on that day. From there we got to talking about working within the limitations of the media—ink and paint for me, plants and wire* for her—and the nature of finished products. It translates over to writing as well; after all, it’s just another medium, with its own kind of limitations.
There was a lead up, but here’s the bottom line: the best art looks effortless.
It doesn’t matter how long it took, or how many times you had to redo it. When it’s done, it should seem easy. Like anyone looking at it, or reading it, will think, Well, of course that’s how it goes. It couldn’t go any other way. That’s how that landscape should look, or how that flower arrangement should fall, or how that scene should read.
Think about this next time you’re working on a piece. When you’re messing with timelines and plots and the balance of show versus tell and all the other messy, occasionally tedious chores that go into making something. All the effort that went into that story, that chapter, that sentence, won’t be seen by the reader. And it shouldn’t be. The best writing passes as easily as water flowing downhill.
Of course, for those of us attempting to do the same thing, it makes us roaringly jealous. Other people seem to have it easy. Things just come to them, right? Not like us. We have to work at it.
That’s a lie. Every effortless sketch you see, every perfect piece of prose, every movie scene that slides past your eyes and into your heart…you can bet your mother’s ass there’s someone behind the scenes, working like a mad bastard to make it right.
You just never see it.
*And probably some other stuff. I know jack about flower arrangements.