Snow is not white. I learned this long ago, while walking in an evergreen forest with my art instructor. He challenged my fellow students and me to look and to see. Where shadows lay, the snow was a soft, cold blue; where it had melted, it was a silvery grey. Where the sun struck, it was gold and as the afternoon wore on, it began to take on a pink tinge.
I noticed the shapes, too: swirls and sculptures made by wind, tiny imprints of squirrels and birds, the pattern of seeds and pine cones indented in the drifts. There were strong contrasts: the softness of a single stock of tall yellow grass against the hardness of massive, dark evergreens.
That day I saw the face of winter, and the nature of snow, in a new way. I discovered snow does not “lay like a fuzzy white blanket,” but more like an intricate shroud, shifting with light and colour, here with gentle curves, there with brittle edges of ice. I discovered its texture, the variety of its form and motion. I discovered it has life and beauty.
Remembering that day, I am challenged to bring the same kind of awareness into my writing. Too often I’m tempted to laziness, letting words, sentences, paragraphs come as they may, and stay as they are. I have learned it is worth the effort to take the time to look, to test the true colour of the words, to hear their tone and voice, to ponder the exact meaning I intend. Hearing a reader say, “that line will stay with me for a long time,” justifies the struggle to be precise.
As writers who are Christian, seeing and portraying what is really there is not an option. We are witnesses of truth. Failing to work at our craft is failing to be faithful to that calling and to the gift we have been given. The apostle Peter says it best in 1 Peter 4:10 – “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
When we truly reflect the world around us, in all its splendour and sometimes horror, through words that live in the hearts and minds of our readers, we honor God and our craft. It is a high calling worthy of much effort.