Thursday, August 19, 2010

What is Art?

We writers are prompted to put pen to paper or tap messages on keyboards, for one reason. We have this overwhelming need for self-expression. Sometimes, in my case, the need to express self muted over time. I started writing, like many people, because I had issues. But after watching Loranna fight with her father and Dezy having no father...and so many other elements that reflected my own life...I took those characters and their stories and locked them up entirely.

But the damage was done. My imagination gave birth to a world, and the characters were alive in my head. I couldn't always identify with their issues, but as I have gotten older I've learned how to express them better. Them, being the characters.

To me art is about communicating. It is one of those things we assume we do. But oftentimes word choice and use do not convey the intended meaning. The simpler the word, the harder to understand. We use so many words colloquially that they attain meanings--semantics--that are not found in the dictionary. I like to keep to dictionary definitions, as near as I'm able.

I also like to assume my readers are intelligent, capable of reading between the lines. Art, in my understanding, is guiding the assumptions of the readers. Communicating intent consciously, and directing the readers' thinking. Art lies in crafting the sentences, the paragraphs carefully. But it also depends on an understanding of what the reader sees. Hence, communication.

An excellent painting is not created by a sudden spill of a paint can, even if some paintings look that way. Color and form are chosen carefully. So too need it be with writing.

Nor is art the first draft. The first draft is like a rehearsal, when all the actors run through their lines. It takes time, and revision, to make the rough outline a solid piece. Art.

Creativity, I think, when fostered in children, is treated as if it is easy. This concept is furthered by a notion discussed in various points around the blogosphere: More people are writing now than ever before because they think you sit down, write a novel, get it published. Easy money. See? Creativity must be easy. It must be making something from nothing. Following rules does not creativity make, so why follow rules?

Artists can't create a nature scene without use of perspective. An abstract artist must know how the human eye travels along a composition, in order to defy the viewer's expectation. Rules. You have to know 'em to break 'em. Else, you convey nothing. Even breaking the rules, consciously, is art.

Art, real art, is hard work. Rough drafts are easy. Rewrites and revisions, tedious. That is where the real art happens. That is when the writer hones his/her craft.

I'm 5 pages into a revision. Every scene, every thought is consciously planned. I've listened to my characters in the prior drafts, I know where they want me to take them. Now, I find a way to tell there story in a way others will understand.

I write for my characters, now. And while they are part of me, sometimes I think I am little to them. I want to publish, not for fame, nor for "success," but to make just enough that all my ends are met and I can immerse myself in the telling of stories. There is nothing else I've ever wanted from life, but the ability to tell stories and do it well.


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