You Should’ve Seen It in Color

retro tv on river shore near forest

During the Pandemic of 2020, I made the brave choice to give up on writing freelance assignments. One of the main reasons I did so was because I felt the color draining from my writing. The grind of churning out what felt like grayscale articles on a daily basis took a toll on my sense of creative integrity. 

When I first started writing professionally, artistry was often encouraged and sought after. Nowadays, it seems personality is better left to voice talents and video stars, not scribes. Meanwhile, many writers are left to suffer in a black and white prison if they ever hope to earn any sort of living. Then, if what you’re writing isn’t fictional, serialized, formulaic, or some combination of the three, you’re likely a starving artist.

Perhaps I’m fortunate to be old enough to recall black and white television sets still active in households when I was young. Rarely were they the main set in a house, but rather stashed away in some back room or even in a kids’ bedroom. What fascinated me most about black and white televisions is you must imagine what’s shown on the television as it would look in color. 

Naturally, your brain wants to colorize everything. So, after a while, your mind’s eye begins to fill in the colors for you, at least in your recollections. For whatever reason in my writing, due to stylistic expectations as a professional writer, I lost my ability to write colorfully. The joy I once had in painting word pictures was on the verge of being lost forever.

People say they value storytelling even in professional work. Yet, many of the stories I read today lack depth. They become increasingly derivative by the day. Sure, I find some writers who still manage to inject some humor into their work. But, even then, the positive aspects of these pieces are often based in pop culture references, and I’ve grown weary of those. Sometimes, I still find wordplay cleverly woven into narratives, but this is becoming increasingly rare. 

Unfortunately, most often, I find many writers who seem to believe themselves more clever than they really are. I see fools armed with masters degrees attempting to force their art for the sake of appearances. It’s rare that I come across writings that truly inspire me to expand my own palette of expression and to dig deeper. I’ve always found it incredibly difficult to dredge up more tear-jerking memories and thoughts to share in my writings. Yet, it’s only in the color of these powerful emotions that my writing can gain its vibrancy. To act as a neutral observer and third party for the sake of a subsistent paycheck is simply damning to one’s artistic palette.

So, when does the work of writing cease to be merely scribbling for the sake of others’ whims and become something worth celebrating? I didn’t come to a solid answer for that question, until after hearing a particular lyric: “you should’ve seen it in color.” I could go more into the song that the line was from, but in isolation, it made me consider just how grey so much of my thinking has become. My line of work had forced me to give up on myself, and only care about what others wanted of me. Who I am as a human being became immaterial; all that mattered were popular search queries and trending topics.

It’s strange to me how black and white my past looks to me now. Much of it has become obscured by the imperfections of long-term memory. Many details inevitably fade into white noise as our experiences slowly, yet steadily, retreat into what then becomes our distant past. Now, I must put on my three-dimensional glasses with vivid color filters to see what I’ve been missing. But, before I get too dizzy and nauseous from the experience, I have to write not so much what I see, but rather what I perceive. Only then can I bring back living color into what has been my life.

For too long, I failed to find the silver linings in what has often been a very unfair life. I’d rather forget so much of it; yet there is much worth telling in the colorful moments I have yet to share. But so much of what bookends the colorful times is too painful for me to recall. The dark pages are often full of identity crises, mixed emotions, betrayal, abuse, and despair. 

Still, there are moments deserving to be captured and eternally fixated in prose. These remembrances aren’t just for me. They are also for the enjoyment of imaginations looking to find a splash of color in our often too binary, grayscale lives. I wish to bleed living color back into a dimming black and white world. The colors I see now are much too dull and muted for my liking. So, what choice do I have but to pierce the mundane with my own sharp wit and intellect, both of which I tragically allowed to dull for too long?

I must retrain my mind to again see the vivid colors within the shades of grey shown to me. This is how I once saw things as a child. It’s a true irony that as our digital displays grow more vivid, the duller our imaginations become. The resolution of our experiences becomes worse as the bitrate of our input increases. This is happening exponentially year after year. We too often let technology do the work our imaginations were designed to do; so, our senses dull as a result. 

Of course, many artists still strive to keep their dreams and stories they tell alive. Sadly, technology has given the public unrealistic expectations of what to expect from the art they consume. Therefore, many artists then see their work not only go unappreciated, but often become openly mocked. The limitations of the technology from my past made us all think more artistically and vividly from the limited palette digital artists once had. Now, the more primitive the technology used to create art, the more I appreciate it.

What now, dear reader, do you wish you could recollect in living color that others around you perceive in black and white? It’s a true irony that you can paint with unlimited colors with today’s technology. Yet, time and again, I’m seeing the world more in black and white than ever. What color can you inject into the world today through your own personal artistry? Is there something that deserves to be brought back to life that you can’t live without? 

For me, I must spill color back onto the pages of my past, no matter how messy the process may be. If my past remains a negative roll of grayscale, my tomorrows will continue to appear ever bleaker.

~ Amelia <3

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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