Writing as...ArtThursday, October 16, 2014
|It is still my dream to publish this novel manuscript.|
But the responses I heard from people in the industry were both discouraging and rather frustrating.
"We would never carry a book like that."
"We don't touch controversial issues."
"Go write an Amish fiction novel and we'll consider you."
I went away confused and vexed — how was I supposed to reconcile my art with the industry? Should I write what I wanted or what I knew would sell?
I desperately want to be able to do both. This is because I believe that for a true artist, writing is both art and work. But ultimately, the balance between the two spectrums is a dichotomy that requires a choice. To what extent are you writing for yourself, for the sake of the art and expression, and to what extent are you writing for the market? Are you vocationally motivated or artistically driven?
This is my first installment in a series that I'll be completing over a few weeks called "Writing As" — I will be exploring the complexities of the field and what it means to pursue this wholeheartedly. What does it mean that writing is an art form?
Art itself is difficult to define. It's the expression of creativity, the application of imagination, the production of human craftsmanship. It's engrained in our very nature, for creativity is part of the human psyche. We were intended to create by nature, for we are made in the image of the Creator who is the greatest artisan. Art is usually something that moves us emotionally and it often evokes a visceral, powerful response from those who observe it.
When I think of art, I usually think of paintings — or of my sister Haley who is one of the best artists I know. ;) But I also think of music, fashion, graphic design and, of course, literature.
Stories require great imagination and precise use of language that is both emotive and evocative. J. K. Rowling, Tolkien and Suzanne Collins each built entire worlds from words. Shakespeare wrote the most beautiful sonnets the world has ever seen. Words are powerful and when combined, they spark the imagination and creativity of the observer. In a way, writing is an art form for the writer and a means of artistic inspiration for the reader.
Writing is transformative.
Art itself is transformation. It moves us. It causes us to let go. Any art, especially literature, is itself a metaphor. It is a symbolic representation of something we see, experience or understand. I know that I am personally changed and influenced by what I write and by what I read — I am both an active participant and a passive spectator to the power of the words, depending on which side of the words I'm on.
Writing is a reflection of you.
Gustave Flaubert, the French author of Madame Bovary, said, "The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe." Your words are an extension of your innermost thoughts. How can we compromise our own ideals and desires because of societal expectations?
If the world pressures me to write what I do not agree with, what I do not feel, then what kind of artist would I be if I lower my standards? I will not submit. With a spirit of unreconciled determination, I will make my writing first and foremost an art form. This doesn't mean that I won't work on marketing, that I don't spend hours researching literary trends, that I shouldn't keep up with bestsellers lists, publication sales or publication strategies. I work thoroughly on my marketing plans and I study the industry because I care about my platform — but ultimately if I have to choose, I choose art.
Before anything else, write for yourself.
Most of the best writers the world has ever known wrote for themselves before anyone else. The ideal should be to find something that reflects you artistically which will also resonate with the market. Be aware of publication trends and make marketability a priority, but don't lose sight of the why behind what you do.
Do you agree?
How can we balance writing as art and work?