Have You Missed the Trees?


There’s an old saying that goes something like this:  You can’t see the forest for the trees.  It means that you are so caught up in the details that you miss the big picture.  That’s not me!  I have always been a forest-type of person.  When I am hiking, I tend to photograph the big scenes, the big view, the treetops.  To me, if I can see the forest, the big picture, the details will take care of themselves.  If I know how something works (the big picture) I can reason my way to the details of how it works. That’s what makes me a good computer troubleshooter.  I know how they work, so I can easily drill down and find the problem by methodically sifting the details.

I think part of this has to do with perspective:  the ability to see objects in three dimensions.  I don’t have perspective (my eyes just don’t work that way), so to define an object’s movement and position, I have to compare it to other objects nearby.  Hence, my forest view.  I see one tree in comparison to others and my brain somehow works out which trees are closer and which are farther away.  If you come to my home, you will see that almost all the art work has a heightened perspective that draws you into the distance.  It’s my way of compensating for my lack of perspective.

This year, something changed.  No, I haven’t gained perspective and burned my paintings, but I realized that I was missing the small things.  In nature, those small things are insects and small flowers and plants.  In my writing, those small things are descriptions.  Perhaps, I first realized this when I noticed that I was writing plot and dialogue fairly quickly, but every time I went back to revise I was adding description.  I was writing forest, but missing trees.  You may not have a problem with perspective, but are you missing the details?  Or have the details become so burdensome that you miss the forest?  Neither position is the best.  They both must operate if we want to see clearly.  In future posts, I’ll be writing more about my efforts to walk the path between the forest and the trees, to balance the big picture with the details.  Come with me and let’s walk together.

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