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Feb 21, 2009

Just One Leaf


One of my favorite Tolkien stories is "Leaf by Niggle."

It is about an artist who aspires to paint a beautiful forest, only to find his talent insufficient to the task. So he tries to focus on painting just one tree -- perfect the tree, and then maybe, he will grow enough in skill to paint the forest. But the tree is too hard too, so he ends up concentrating on just a leaf. If he could only paint just one single leaf right!

He hasn't much time because his pesky neighbor keeps bugging him (life) and because he has to take a trip (death). Life interferes with art. Death interferes with life. Art must be squeezed in between.

Like Niggle, I wish I could paint the forest, or at least a tree, but it is a struggle to even capture just one leaf.

I've been thinking about High Concept, and my Dindi series, and the desperate feeling that it falls far short of the forest I originally envisioned. I'm down to grasping at leaves.

It's interesting to look at books which become bestsellers. What do they have in common? Actually -- not much. Some of them are short and simple, about just a few characters; others are door-stop epics with a cast of thousands; some are beautiful, lyrical, literary and tragic; others are wham-bam action with 2D characters but 3D explosions. And on and on.

I'd say the one thing all bestsellers have in common is One True Thing. They don't have to capture the be-all and end-all of human experience, only One True Thing about what it means to be human. One leaf's worth of life -- that's enough.

Ah, but it is hard to capture One True Thing. It's the hardest thing there is.

If only, if only, I could paint just one leaf.

3 comments:

sraasch said...

Wow -- this should bring my Muse rushing back on its own! Powerful. And oh so true. We spend too much time focusing on getting the whole forest right, when all we need is one little leaf. A very lyrical way of putting it. I hadn't thought of it like that before.

jacker said...
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amarllyis said...

That's a beautiful post! :-) It speaks volumes about life and ourselves!