" Reading was my escape and my comfort, my consolation, my stimulant of choice: reading for the pure pleasure of it, for the beautiful stillness that surrounds you when you hear an author's words reverberating in your head " Paul Auster.
This week I have been pondering on the writer as an artist. A visual artist presents their work visually and when you see a piece of art, often you have a kind of instant reaction to it; it pleases you or it disturbs you or you are in awe of the skill used to create it, or perhaps you loathe it and find it twee or pedestrian or disgusting.A musical artist presents their work in auditory form. You hear it and again react to it; the beat excites you or soothes you or elates you. Or conversely, it irritates you or depresses you, or the lyrics are meaningless.
A writer as an artist is working in a different kind of way; our work can be presented either visually in terms of the printed word or audibly through oral storytelling or listening to a story being read but it only becomes meaningful as the brain process those words and the meaning, puts them together with our own memories, desires, fears and life experiences and extracts meaning from them. The art of the writer is to present an experience in a world which the reader can share with the author. It becomes a sort of intimate conversation between you, the writer, and your reader. There are those who do not regard writing as an art, but as a skill. A visual artist also learns their skill; there are many technically adept artists who nevertheless produce work that is boring and pedestrian, just as there are writers who produce written pieces which are boring and pedestrian. A dictionary definition of art defines it as the creation of something beautiful or emotionally expressive by the use of creativity, skill and imagination.
I think the difference in a writer as an artist is that usually people spend less time engrossed and immersed in visual art, music or dance. It may well be true that you listen to music all the time but music allows you to be doing something else which might be distracting your mind; for instance you may have music on while you are doing housework, or filing things or talking to a friend. Visual art is often a much shorter, perhaps more intense experience- for whilst we may purchase art to hang on our walls, or go to an art gallery, very few people can spend hours or days looking at a single piece of art.
Writing, however, engages the reader with the writer for a far longer concentrated time. They spend time together for however long it takes for the reader to read the book. You may be a reader who likes to sit for a few hours at a time, immersed in new worlds, or perhaps you like to read a chapter a day, or you relish escaping from the commuter grind and read on the way to work. Whichever way, the writer has the opportunity to engage with their audience during a long time period.
As a writer, that connection between artist and audience is a vital one. A writer's primary aim is to communicate their thoughts and feelings with others. For me, that relationship is engaging and fulfilling and inspiring.