How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series

Posted by houndrat on Thursday Mar 4, 2010 Under writing

So, the lovely Corrine Jackson, a newly agented author with the Bradford Literary Agency, invited me to participate in this joint blogging effort about the writing process. (yeah, I’m not really sure where she got the insane idea that I’m qualified to do this, either, but shhh! Don’t tell!) For more details and a CONTEST, WOOT!, visit her blog, and see the list of other participants below.

And now for our first topic:

Writers as Artists: How do you define yourself as a writer? Are genre writers artists?

Oh, wait, I know this one! Is it–I write therefore I am? No? Curses! Gee, Cory, way to toss us a softball to start with! This isn’t one of those profound, put on your tweed blazer, drink herbal tea and ponder the universe type questions, is it? Because I’m an epic fail at those. OMG, do you remember the “what is the meaning of beauty” essays in your college philosophy classes? MEEP!

Um, we had a topic, didn’t we? Sorry. Writers as artists, check. The answer for me is kind of two-sided, actually. On the one hand, yes, I consider the majority of writers, whether they are published, attempting-to-be-published, genre or literary, to be artists. I mean, they’re all creating something, right? And isn’t the end result of creating = to art? But then, if you were to ask me if *I* consider myself an artist, I would probably spit tea all over your shirt. There’s just something so pretentious sounding about that term when you apply it to your own writing. Or maybe it’s just me—I’m weird that way.

But yes, I do view genre writers as artists. In fact, in some ways, I think it’s harder to be a genre writer. There are more rules to follow while *creating*, which lends itself to a unique set of challenges that pure “literary” writers don’t always have to address.

Let’s try another way of looking at it. Painters create all types of pictures, from beautiful landscapes to portraits to OMG, what the heck *is* that crazy-looking thing?, and yet we rarely question if painting is art. I think it should be the same with writing. It’s just that one author might create lovely, evocative, thought-provoking imagery, and another creates kick-ass action sequences, quick-witted, realistic dialogue, or heart-tugging love scenes. One author might spend pages telling us how the ocean is a metaphor for death, and another shows us how the Evil Octo-flounder Monster causes death by injecting toxic ink into beachgoers big toes. Whether you value one above the other is pretty personal–the whole “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” thing.

Also, since writers didn’t traditionally fall under the term “artist” at all—it was reserved more for the visual and musical arts—I thought I’d ask two YA writers who *are* traditional artists about their take on writers as artists.

From Cindy Pon, author of Silver Phoenix and creator of lovely Chinese brush art:

“writing is definitely a creative endeavor.
we weave stories, paint images with our words.
and stories can elicit emotion, just as music or
paintings or sculpture–any form of art can.”

From Gretchen McNeil of YARebels awesomeness, a former opera singer represented by Ginger Clark:

You see, writing is all about craft… (sorry Gretchen—couldn’t resist) No, here’s what she really said:

“I think of art in two distinct categories: creative and interpretive. Most people disagree with me here, but opera, classical musicians, actors – I consider them to be interpretive artists, meaning that they are interpreting someone else’s work. Still hard. Still requires a shit ton of dedication and practice, but different than the creative artists – the writer, poet, painter, composer – who is creating something from nothing.”

Okay, and now comes the part where I tie everything neatly into the book I’m reading, Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell…um, yeah, it really doesn’t tie in at all. But even the process he describes of brainstorming the ideas, getting them on paper, and creating an entire, compelling book out of them carries the implication that the writer is an artist. Because, what it all boils down to is this: we create.

Well, I think that’s about all the time we have for this post! (See what I did there? I distracted you with pretty quotes and authors and books, and totally evaded the first question. Maybe Cory won’t notice….)

And please, check out what the other participants had to say on the topic (undoubtedly something way, way more profound than the random brain spew I just subjected you to!)

Kate Hart who totally stole the book I wanted
Jamie Blaire
Laura McNeeking
Jennifer Wood who totally stole the other book I wanted
Sarah Harian
Stephanie Jenkins
Leila Austin
and of course, again, Corrine Jackson, the instigator crazywoman wonderful facilitator of this whole thing

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13 Responses to “How Writers Do It: A Writing Process Series”

  1. Karla Nellenbach Says:

    I thought your brain spew was pretty profound! Nice blog series, and damn Kate and Jennifer for stealing the books you wanted! lol

  2. Dee Garretson Says:

    Good post-Hope you’re working on the toxic ink in the big toes storyline. I don’t think that’s been done. I’ve never considered myself an artist, but I do like it when the creative part of my brain, a small being who seems to be unrelated to me, comes up with an off the wall idea. Getting the idea into words takes so much work, it doesn’t feel pretty enough to be art. I do consider some other writers to be artists, those whose words are so amazingly combined, I feel like I’m in a work of art while reading them.

  3. Laura (Common) Says:

    Great post, hound! Yeah, ummmm…I definitely think we share a brain, only you got all the funny genes. :-D I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks of writing as art but never really thought of myself as an artist.

  4. CoryLeslie Says:

    Really great post! Dead on topic, too. It’s amazing what weight the word “art” carries. I immediately picture the man in tweed with his scotch and pretentious nose in the air. I don’t understand why people are allows trying to define art into a box when by definition, art is a free thing.

  5. Donna Says:

    I also believe it’s hard to call ourselves artists because of the “if I can do it, it’s not really art” mentality. I’ve been involved in other creative endeavors, and it was always difficult to consider myself an artist without feeling like I’ve just invited everyone to laugh themselves silly. I like Gretchen’s distinction between “creative” and “interpretive” artists. There’s a lot of different artists on the spectrum, which means there’s room for all of us.

  6. Amy Says:

    Great post! I also think of writing as art, and writing as artists… except for myself. :)

  7. Kate Says:

    First of all, I’ll have you know Cory assigned me that book. B/c I haven’t read any others, but that’s beside the point. LOL

    Nice post! I love Gretchen’s quote– great idea asking artists who do double duty.

  8. Shveta Thakrar Says:

    I agree with Gretchen’s take, and I do believe we’re artists. Some of us are just more commercial than others. Whether that’s good or bad is up to the beholder.

  9. Tracey Says:

    Awesome post! I’ve always had it drummed in my head that writing =/= art. Even in college, creative writing classes did not count toward humanities credits while things like painting, orchestra, etc. did. Oh, and dissecting other people’s writing in lit courses did too. WTF?

    Really like Gretchen’s distinction too.

  10. Jamie Says:

    You crack me up! I love the quotes from other “artists” and agree that it’s a title the would make me spit tea, too! :D

  11. Gretchen Says:

    Art is ultimately subjective. And that pretty much sums it up for me.

  12. Jennifer (Herb) Says:

    I laughed so hard at this post. And I stole the book you wanted? Kate stole the book I wanted! Sorry *blushes* Adding in the quotes was a great touch. Great post.

  13. Leila Says:

    “But then, if you were to ask me if *I* consider myself an artist, I would probably spit tea all over your shirt. There’s just something so pretentious sounding about that term when you apply it to your own writing. Or maybe it’s just me—I’m weird that way.”

    Definitely not just you! I don’t mind the dictionary definition of the word artist so much, but the word itself scares me to death. Maybe we need to somehow reclaim it from all the pretentious connotations.

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