Today, taking a break from reading on my first home’s front porch, I squinted to the wind and smiled at the front yard’s fence. My father built the fence when I was little. What a perfect piece of my past to use in my book.

I stood up to take its picture but then sat down just as fast with a different idea in mind— to sketch it.

And so, taking my time, I did just this. Two pictures, long view and close-up.

I love it. I’ll do it forever now.

Instead of taking a picture and writing about the fence, sketching it has made me look at it in a whole new way. I carved, cut, sanded, and hammered into my journal’s pages the fence just as my father had done in creating it. In doing this, I saw the fence differently; saw the grain of its skin, the mold at its tops, the smiley bend of the horizontal 2x4s through warping; saw the fence for what it was, in parts and as a whole. Whereas if I’d taken a picture, it would’ve been a flat dimension to write about.

Try sketching. Even if you can’t do it well. It teaches your eyes to see multiple worlds at once, letting loose your imagination to describe it after.

I will begin a sketchbook because of this moment today.

Now when I write about this fence in my book, it will cull so much more of my experiences with it—my memories of it, my awe at its rugged beauty, the need for such a symbol in my work —but also it will include this new experience of my having sketched it. This will make all the difference in my story.

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