The other day I succeeded in delighting a photographer. He’d posted a photo on a social media site of a road surrounded by towering trees as it curved around the rim of a deep gorge. Others besides me loved the photo; they called it beautiful, awesome, gorgeous, etc. One-word reactions such as this are the norm. I made similar remarks, but I also commented on the splash of golden sunlight shining through the leaves. The photographer’s response was effusive to the point of gushing. His response delighted me. It made me happy to make him happy.
This isn’t the first time I’ve pleased a photographer by looking closely at his or her work of art and commenting on details that I find especially outstanding or evocative.
As a writer, I know what other creatives like, what tickles them to the point where their socks fly off, like Charlie Brown’s when he’s knocked off the pitcher’s mound by a fastball.
It’s wonderful to get responses such as beautiful, awesome, breathtaking, but they don’t tell the artist very much. The same goes for writing. I like hearing, “good story,” “nice,” “interesting.” These are all instantaneous responses that require little thought. Creatives want to know why you like their work. What makes it special?
To photographers, I say such things as, “I like your framing.” I like the contrast of colors and texture.” “The way your captured the light is magical.” “I love the composition.”
Writers also like to know what you like about their story.
One of the best responses I once got from a reader was, “I felt like I was there with your character. I felt what she was feeling.”
That’s what I want to know. Do my characters come alive? Have I made you feel what they feel? Are my settings so vivid that it seems as if you’re there? Are my images, metaphors, and similies memorable? Can you visualize what I’m describing? If my writing made you get misty or gave you a chuckle, I’d like to know that, too.
The kind of reactions I’ve described require a bit of thought, not just a knee-jerk reaction. Yes, it takes a bit of time, but the creative has put hours of time and much effort into their work. I think they deserve a thoughtful response.
I have to admit that I don’t always know what to say, either. Even though I took several art history classes in college, I feel I don’t know enough about art to make apt comments. It’s why I avoid going to opening receptions at art galleries, just so I don’t have to talk to the artist, I’m afraid that what I say will be banal, cliched. That’s more about my own ego, to not seem ignorant. But even if the artist has heard the same comment a hundred times it’s okay. Creatives like to know their work has been seen and appreciated, not matter how naive the comments..