The Lens

The writer’s inner eye is a kind of telescopic lens.  With it, we can see as far across the landscape as we wish. It is an unusual lens, however, in that unlike a typical telescope, it is not capable of focusing on just anything. Rather, the lens sweeps across the horizon of ideas, searching for something of interest. Of course, as we search, we do not know how far what we are searching for is from us, and so our lens has rarely been focused to the precise distance we need. In this way, what we are searching for always begins as a vague and undefined thing that for reasons we ourselves cannot explain to anyone else is of great interest to us, despite having little form and only the impression of color. And so we begin to focus. As writers, we focus using our characters and the choices they make. Those choices become dials of our lens, pulling this thing we’ve seen into clearer and clearer focus. As I said, this lens is immensely powerful. It can see across time itself. As such, we must keep the lens very steady; the smallest shift and we can lose what we were focusing on. The quirk of this lens is that it is incapable of ever fully focusing on what does not interest us. This can make it seem like a broken instrument, when in fact it was only our unsteady hand or the belief that everything is equally interesting to us that prevented us from ever clearly seeing.

But if we are steady, and if we are patient, eventually that thing we had found will come into focus. Eventually, the lines will take form, and there will be shadow and light, and the colors will separate, and we will not just see but recognize that thing for which we had been searching. And once it is clear, once it has been pulled fully into focus and sent out to the world, all the other like souls sweeping the horizon for things of interest will find it too.

And even though you did so much work focusing your lens, when these like souls discover what you found, they will recognize it as if it were their own, as if they had focused their lens to extract your story from the horizon—which, of course, they have.

If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.

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