Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Color Combinations

Sharon Wildwind

I have some disturbing news for you.

Yellow and blue don’t make green. Neither do blue and red make violet, or red and yellow make orange.

But I’ve made green with yellow and blue, you wail. Yes, you probably have, starting with finger paints back in kindergarten. Let’s just say you got lucky.

Here’s a perfectly good blue and a perfectly good yellow, but do you see a green? Maybe a touch of gray-green, but definitely tending more toward the gray side than the green side. That because I started with a blue-violet and a yellow-orange. Do you see the word green in either of those colors? To paraphrase an old blues song, “If you ain’t got it, how you going to keep giving it away?”

Here’s that same yellow-orange, this time paired with a plucky blue-green that’s giving his best shot at making green, but Y-O just can’t cooperate. She doesn’t have it in her. The result is a half green, a little better than what we had before, but still not there.

This is more like it. This time I matched a yellow-green with a blue-green. Since both partners have green to contribute, the middle color just pops.

The point is that no matter how good we are, there is always something that just isn’t in us, in the same way that the color green isn’t in yellow-orange. I would make—I have made—the world’s worst elected officer. It took me several stints in assorted organizations, all of which were qualified disasters, to realize that. Give me a concentrated focus, like putting together 300 goodie bags the day before a convention, and I’m your gal. Elect me to an office and impeachment hovers on the horizon.

I think we do ourselves a disservice when we take on commitments that we know we are going to be lousy at keeping.

This doesn't mean that I'm not in favor of experimentation. Maybe you've never written a short story, so you'd like to try one. That's great. Just like the green in the third photo, you may discover that your talent as a short-story writer just pops.

But if you've already been there, done that, and know that you lack the short-story gene, don't put yourself through misery by volunteering to contribute a short story to an anthology. If you're lousy at Twittering, don't Twitter. If the thought of giving a talk to a group of high school students gives you the collie-wobblies, don't volunteer to talk to your sister's tenth-grade class. Even if she is your sister. She will forgive you.

Here's one more green example:This is part of a sample sheet made by doing multiple pairings of five different yellows and six different blues. Each one is different and each one has a place on the chart. That's the way that we need to be, too. Let's hear it for individual contributions.

Quote for the week:

What you love is as unique to you as your fingerprints. You need to know that because nothing will make you really happy but doing what you love.
~Barbara Sher, author of I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Great topic, Sharon. My short story writing and love for the form popped up after a lifetime of "Nope, don't read 'em, don't write 'em." But writing to someone else's idea, like some highly successful cozy writers who've done well (in writing as well as sales) with for-hire series? Couldn't do it in a million years, wouldn't want to try.

Anonymous said...

For me it's violence, the crafting of details of nasty things that people do to one another. Even thinking about it gives me the an icky feeling.

Julia Buckley said...

Good common sense advice, and rather a relief to hear. :)

Anonymous said...

Julia, maybe we all need buttons that instead of saying "Save the mystery world one color at a time" should say "Save ourselves as a writer one color at a time"

Kaye George said...

I'm glad to see you say that about Twitter. I'll continue to do a bit of it, but I don't get it. I can write a really, really short story, but I can't converse that way!

Annay Dawson said...

Love the philosophy. I always hear that if you can write a novel you can write something that is only a mere 500 words. Not so I say, not so!

Anonymous said...

Kaye, I don't know if Krista Davis' blog about Twittering would help you, but it did make Twitter much clearer for me.

Annay, I agree with you completely. I tend to go for the long haul instead of the short sprint.

Kaye George said...

Krista is the only reason I'm tweeting at all. :) It's just not something that feels natural to me and I doubt it ever will. I can't be bothered to remember all the abbreviations.