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C O N T R A S T S

A sculptor was once asked how, when faced with an immense, obdurate chunk of marble, you know where to begin. How, for example, might you begin to carve an elephant from it? The sculptor replied: “I just chip away the bits that aren’t the elephant.”

 

Writing, like sculpting, is as various as writers and sculptors themselves, and while both books and sculptures are born of something imagined, the disciplines of writing and sculpting are seemingly at odds: both begin with a creative impulse but only one has something physically tangible to work with.

 

Yet while the blank page looms large and intractable as a block of marble, it too demands excavation in order that a story, a poem - a truth, perhaps - may be revealed. The writer’s excavation is internal: carving happens in the mind and spirit and, if a written elephant is the aim, the bits that aren’t the elephant have to be written before they can be chipped away. For me, a writer, the sculptor’s reply to the question of how makes perfect sense. Writing is, in the end, just like sculpting, painting or composing. It’s about combining experience, instinct and sensibilities, so that in the chipping away of something that is not what you want, the very thing that you do want may be revealed, first to you, and then to others. 

 

As an author, I’m most compelled by what in our hearts and minds is hidden. So, I tend to write about the interiors and details of people and their behaviours rather than places, events or historic periods. I want to excavate, and to bring to light something that was previously obscured or mysterious to me. When it comes to language, which I love deeply, I like odd angles: I like analogies which might surprise or delight; I love words with dimensions, words that take you beyond their immediate location in a sentence, and beyond their obvious meaning or common use. I like using language to locate those things (our feelings and behaviours, mostly) that are tricky to unearth and complicated to explain – until I’ve exactly the right words to do so.

Mary Loudon

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