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FAQ > The Book of Joby > Q: How does your writing process compare to your art process?

 

A: The two are surpisingly similar, really. They are both emersive and vividly visual for me. As an artist, I see an image in my mind and attempt to record it as fully as possible on paper. But that image is actually anything but ‘still’ or two dimentional. As I attempt to focus on it, my angle of view and the very content and composition of that mental image is constantly shifting—if not present in multiple variations at the same instant. No artist ever captures all five or ten dimensions of the images within them on a single sheet of flat paper in a single frame. At best they represent the over-arching experience—the ‘general idea’ of what they held inside while they were drawing or painting.                                                                         
This is one of the reasons I so like writing. There is room there for a lot of pictures—many views of the same concept. Many, many pictures. As a writer, I am actually immersed inside a movie in my head and doing my best to record what I see, and hear, and smell, and touch, and feel. For me, words are the fastest way to paint a picture, and the highly visual quality of my writing is often remarked upon by readers who contact me.                                                                                                                                             
There is one significant difference between my art process and my writing process, however, which has to do with flexibility along the way.  When I am drawing a picture, it is not far into the process before I am comitted to a specific outcome. Once the composition is laid out and the rendering has begun, I know what I am drawing, and must simply finish that image—or start over completely. Not so with writing.                                                                                                                                                                            
When I start a story, I almost always know pretty specifically both how it will begin and how it will end. The middle, however, is all for discovering as I write my way between those two points. I do usually make an outline of some kind fairly early on, which I regard as a useful crutch to be continuously abandoned as the story itself suggests even better directions and devices along the way. Within a month or two after I finish, I usually realize what I should have written, and, so far, seem to need only a month or two more to go back and write that instead. Then all I need is a good editor, (which I’ve been fortunate to have on several occasions now), to pry my eyes open the rest of the way.                                                                  
So, I guess I’d say that I know pretty clearly what a picture’s going to look like when I start, while with writing I know clearly what my story’s going to look like only at the end.