I took my musician son to the opera a few years ago and was delighted to discover that he had watched the orchestra more than he watched the stage. He was fascinated by the interaction between the musicians, the conductor and whatever was happening with the actors. I can honestly say I have never watched the orchestra at an opera. As a student of character development it fascinated me.
Then one day I had the pleasure of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York with an artist friend. I believe it was in the Greek exhibit when it became clear to me that I didn’t see like an artist. She described a Greek vase to me and I couldn’t believe all the things there were to see. In a flash I understood that this was how she translated the world around her and why she was such a good artist.
This week I noticed how I read. I notice things about character development and interaction, structure and word choice that I bet a person who isn’t a writer would never think about.
I realize that people who work in an art see according to their art. They see and experience the art of other people differently from those who are not practicing an art form. I think I recognized that I had become a professional when I realized that I was excited about structure and form as much as I was in reading a story or watching a movie. I might read good books several times – the first time for enjoyment, the next several times to pick apart how the author had accomplished something interesting. I have read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series dozens of times, each time exploring her mastery at writing as much as her good story telling. It's a variation on the theme of "Hang out with greatness."
Being this focused on the writing rather than the story doesn’t destroy the story for me. It adds another layer of excitement to the reading. I’m always looking for the next great example of fine writing to pick apart, examine and admire.