Thursday, September 8, 2011

P is for Please Don't Insult The Writer

I don't own a soapbox. I never have. In fact, I had to rent this one just for this post, so do be warned. It's a bit used and my feet hurt already, but it doesn't look too bad, so here we go! ^_^   

Something really ticked me off today. It's actually a very simple kind of something. I tried explaining my annoyance to my dear mother and her response prompted this post. I have decided the best thing to do would be to write it out of my system.

Of course, if I'm going to all the trouble of writing it out, I might as well turn it into a blog post, right? Hmmmm.

Don't worry, I won't subject you to some raving rant about how I think the golden world exists because pens and paper don't constantly argue with each other. But I will make one point based on my own experiences and a few random facts. I say a few random facts because I do read quite a bit and sometimes it takes a couple years for what I read to settle into the necessary places in my mind.

This is one of those times.

My opinion is this: a writer is not an artist.

By all means, do disagree if you like, but please, share with me why exactly you are disagreeing. I do not mean that a writer cannot be artistic or that two forms of art cannot reside in the same human being, I am simply stating that in my mind, as far as I understand, a writer is not an artist. They can be artistic. They can be writers and artists, but a writer is not an artist. Those are two different labels for two distinctly wonderful things. I don't believe they should be carelessly muddled together like that.

P is for please don't insult the writer.

In the years I have been writing up to now, it has taken me quite some time to accept the title of a writer. I've been writing long enough to hold the title, yet I still hesitate to label myself that way for a few reasons.

Writing is hard work. Good writing takes a significant amount of work. Really great writing is easy reading and easy reading is gut-wrenching, soul-stirring writing. Note that I said writing, not content. The actual message or story can be as light and fluffy as you like, that doesn't mean that writing it was anywhere near easy.

This isn't to say that I am not a hard-worker or I won't put out the amount of effort and quality that is necessary and expected from a writer. It means that when I do hold myself to the title, I do so in all seriousness and sincerity. But sometimes, I am too lazy, too bored or too something-or-the-other to do what a truly dedicated writer would do. I post unedited snippets, I write without proofreading and I tear pages out of notebooks. In those moments, I am not being a writer, I am merely being Sara. (A rather moody version of Sara, but still).

Before this post takes on a mind of its own, I'm going to get to the point.

My annoyance came from a conversation I overheard in regards to art and writing. It went something along the lines of "Writing is just like art. It's the same thing. Writers and artists are the same. Writing is easier. If I had to be an artist, I'd be a writer because it's easier."


It wasn't so much that it was said, but the way in which it was said. 

My initial reaction went something like "Oh really?" followed immediately by "and what exactly do you write, my dear?". However, my mother raised me to be polite and all potentially snappish remarks remained in the darkened caverns in the depths of my brain where the voices in my head are free take whatever liberties keep them happy.

So, here's my point.

I just said that writing isn't easy. I didn't mean that it's so hard that you have to lose your mind over it (though that certainly is possible!). How hard and easy it is depends on the writer and their skill level. I'm sure we all agree that there are some excellent writers out there and some equally not-so-excellent ones. When you say something was or is hard in relation to writing, please oh please do be careful.

Please don't insult the writer.

For me, easy reading is hard writing--very hard writing. Sometimes I feel lucky when writing is easier than I first thought or a first draft isn't as rough as I expected. I am aware that some of my writing habits are entirely unique to my own creative process and is reflected in the things I write and the manner in which I speak of them.

But writing is just like other normal things--you have to do them. You have to put forward the effort. If you're artistically inclined, art may seem 'easier' but then Thomas Mann reminds, "a writer is a person for whom writing is twice as difficult as it is for other people."

I energetically spend half of my writing days endeavoring to prove him wrong. The other half are reminders that he is more right than I care to admit. Sometimes it feels like the more I know of writing, the harder it becomes. I miss days when I didn't know anything and telling a story was just to see smiles in the audience.

Have you ever seen an artist at work? Their hands move across a blank page and the most intense look of concentration settles over their entire body. Color is breathed into existence, a world is painted out of their minds. From the depths of their God-given talent, they are creating a masterpiece and it's beautiful.

Have you ever seen a writer at work? They are oblivious to the world around them as their minds come alive in tandem with their bodies, birthing words that fill the lined page. Impressions become reality and a whole realm unfolds in dozens of pages. From the depths of their God-given talent, they are creating a masterpiece and it's beautiful.

Wonderful creative processes. Brilliant creative minds. Sensitive souls. Individual human beings.

Don't insult them. Please don't insult them. Sensitive means they are open to the world around them. It doesn't mean they are anything less than who they are and what they do.

It might mean that when you speak ill of their gift or talent, everyone in the room might laugh, but they will simply smile at you. The kind of smile that will bug you, because it'll stay in the back of your mind for having said far more than they would have taken the time to share.

It might mean you lost a potential friend.

This bothered me today because of what I know I have put into my writing and of what I have given of myself to find the courage to bear that title. I speak it with respect and earnest will. It is not something I throw in other people's faces, not something to constantly brag about and definitely not something I claim as successful by my own merits.

Yes, there are things I could brag about. Yes, if I wanted to throw it in your face, there's quite a bit more than what my bio in the sidebar says. Yes, I could selfishly claim that all I have accomplished have been because of x, y or z.

Yes, I could.

But I don't and I won't.

There are times and places for everything. I am my own worst critic and bragging is the very last thing I would do for my own writing. That's just me though. I know this is part of who I am. I know how it factors into my creative process. I know there are times when I will speak up. There will be times when I must.

I will admit in all honesty that I am short-tempered. Extremely short-tempered. I have automatic responses for everyday situations that frustrate or confound me. If something bothers me, be well assured that I will speak up-and that you will hear me. I struggle on a daily basis to remember to be mindful of what I say when and to whom.

If I were to claim all that I have written was on my own talent and creative brilliance, I would be lying in the worst way possible. There are many things I have written that leave me amazed at God's sheer awesomeness.Too many things. I also find the things written through Him are the hardest of all to write. Kinda makes you think.

For me, it takes all three to make up the true character of a respectable writer. I can speak so strongly about the differences between them, because I've been there--and I'm still there. Art is so drastically different from writing, it's become a new pet peeve. Writing is such an opposite to art that it makes me want to scream when folks lump them together. Writing can be an art. Art can certainly tell a story. But they're two completely different things. The more you know about either, the more you realize just how different they are.

I'll get off my soapbox for now, because there are a few class papers I ought to be writing. (and the rent on that thing is outrageous!) Take care and do remember, please don't insult the writer(s) or the artist(s). They just might write a whole novel on it (or at least a blog post), who knows?

Sara Harricharan ^_^

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Kristina said...

"Writing is easier?!" Please excuse me while I roll on the floor and laugh for a while! I've always said that the only people who think writing is easy are the people who have never attempted it. I suppose there might be some genius somewhere who can write effortlessly regardless of circumstances, but I doubt it.
For me personally, writing has always been a form of art. I have never made a distinction between the two. As someone who has dabbled in many kinds of art, I have found that no matter what creative avenue I am exploring, hard work and dedication is required. I define art as expression of emotion and/or ideas, so for me there is no difference between writing a novel and painting a picture or composing a piece a of music. No form of art is easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
Anyway, I enjoyed this blog post, Sara! You serve yummy food for thought! ^_^

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Sawa. You look GOOD on that soapbox. I love to read about your passions, no matter what they might be.

And writing is NOT easier - necessarily. I absolutely agree with ya. AND love ya absolutely too!

Barbara Lynn Culler said...

Powerful post! PREACH IT, SISTER!