"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
~ Anton Chekhov
That quote captured me, wrapped me around it's fingers and spread me open like the night sky.
How many times have our critique partners, writing group leaders, mentors said that? My writing mentor always said, "Write with your five senses." All of them. Leave not a one behind. Don't tell me dinner smelled good. Show me how Calvin salivated as the fragrance of baked turkey and ham flitted across the room, how his stomach rumbled in embarrassment at his hunger, how he had to rub his eyes just to make sure he wasn't dreaming. Don't tell me Melissa cried. Show me her streaming tears, her blood shot eyes, the blanket clutched to her chest as he lays, balled up in bed all day, staring at the brick wall. Don't tell me the mountain was majestic. Show me the snow capped peaks, the rocky crags, the steep crevices, the gaping mouths and popping eyes of the mountaineers as they stand atop it's peak.
Remember show and tell? I loved it! I always brought something weird or odd because, well, that's just the way I am. If I had only told someone I had a plastic snail that would open, with use of a large, pink skeleton key, to be used for storage, they may have shrugged, nodded, said, "yeah, that's nice". But I took it in, showed them how it worked. "Oohs and ahs" abound when you show.
There are somethings you can't really tell. How much Bill loves Carol. How much Eleanor loves Emily Dickenson. How much three year old William loves his new puppy. Sometimes words aren't enough, especially for love. Show me how Bill brushes the hair from Carol's eyes. Show me how he holds her hand as she gets up to walk for the first time after knee surgery. Show me how Eleanor will sit for hours pouring over Dickenson, how she smiles, subtly, a knowing smile, sips tea and snuggles under her blanket, perfectly content. Show me how William struggles to carry the puppy everywhere, how he tumbles about the yard with it, how he lets it give him slobbery kisses right smack dab on the lips.
Show, don't tell. Telling has it's place. Sure, we need telling. But it lacks magic. You can tell me Egypt is intoxicating all you want but I'd much, much rather be shown the pyramids, the market place, the temples, the Nile.
I always knew India was a mind-bogglingly different country. I'd been told as much. But until I saw it, smelled it, touched it, tasted it - until it has been shown to me I didn't really know it.
Hmmm, perhaps that's the key after all. Tell me about a book, and I know about it. Show me the book, let me devour it, and I'll know it.
PS: Here are two articles by author Donald Miller about reorganizing your life into stories rather than goals. I thought they were appropriate for the new year. Enjoy!
Living a Good Story, an Alternative to New Years Resolutions
Living a Meaningful Story Pt. 2: Creating Memorable Scenes