Write like a sculptor, a minimalist, and a cinematographer

Write Like a Sculptor

Sculptors take raw materials and use them to create new three-dimensional artworks. Often, a sculptor will start with a piece of solid material and gradually remove parts of it until it takes a new form — the form they have envisioned.

Try writing like a sculptor. Write associatively whatever comes to mind, and treat this piece of text as the raw material you are working with. Carve it out gradually until the core of the idea surfaces and the rhythm and structure of the text support it.

The result can be extremely different from the raw material, not just in its shape but also in its nature. The final form has a life of its own, often capturing traits you wouldn’t imagine the raw material can. Solid stone can embody movement, and concrete can seem soft. And yet, the raw material is always present and affecting, even if unconsciously, the audience’s experience.

Write Like a Minimalist

Sometimes, focusing on the essence of an idea — its core — has a much more significant impact than wrapping it with layers of explanations, examples, and applications.

Writing like a minimalist is focusing on that essence: finding the core of what you wish to say and putting that on the front. Sometimes, this will be enough. At other times, you will have to add the details and nuances later. But seeing the core of your idea vividly in front of you will help you stay focused and coherent. Even when you eventually add all these additional layers, the minimalistic kernel sets the tone of your text.

Often, this is what the audience will also remember.

Write Like a Cinematographer

Any movie ever made started as words printed on paper: the screenplay. The director adds layers of interpretations and shapes the vision for the film. But it is the cinematographer that helps the director bring this vision to life, at least when it comes to how a scene is shot.

What lens is used, what is in focus, how the scene is lighted, and how the camera moves affect what we see on screen and how we experience the story. They might not affect the storyline, but what we, the audience, perceive can radically change.

Writing like a cinematographer means using structural tools to affect how the audience perceives our text. Creating movement, coloring the idea with a specific tone, choosing what to focus on, what to leave outside of the frame, and what to blur and push to the background can affect the text. These tools are more than just technical tools. They can make a text work and your message impactful. Or they can make the text dull and unmemorable regardless of how good your core idea is.

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yellow spice version: 2022.05.0017

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