At the end of our family adventure in Scotland this summer I took my wife and two girls to see one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, and his wife, Amanda Palmer. Together they performed an evening of music and stories. It was a wonderful way to cap off our Edinburgh Fringe Festival experience.
We sat in the high back row of a very hot theater that was once a church. We were dazzled by raucous songs and bone chilling stories, but there in the dark I notice my daughter Jen had her sketchbook out.
Jen is an artist (Kathleen is the musician). She is now in her 2nd year at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). And somehow she was drawing in the dark.
When the evening was over Jen and I left the other two behind and rushed down to get into the line for autographs. I had purchased a new copy of American Gods for the author to sign. Jen was looking for something for them both to autograph. I asked to see her sketch.
“It’s not very good,” she said. “I didn’t know I had switched to a red pen half way through in the dark.”
But she was wrong. Her sketch was marvelous. I insisted that she have them both sign it. When she presented it to Mr. Gaiman he looked up at her with pleasant shock and he asked, “Is that me?”
It was indeed. I treasure his autograph in my book, but Jen’s sketch is truly something special.
And I began thinking: perhaps we should do more art in the dark. Perhaps we should try writing in the dark, too.
For today’s assignment use only paper and pens or pencils. Find somewhere to sit or stand where you are in the dark, but you can see or observe something, anything. Then write. Scribble away. Capture and describe something that you see.
In the dark you can’t see if you’re spelling things right. You can’t see if you’re staying between the lines. You can’t see the words at all.
You’ll eventually have to let go and just write.
And I think that you’ll discover some interesting things writing in the dark.