The differences between artists and writers, between painting and prose, are so blatant that sometimes I forget that writing is a type of art, too. In fact, sometimes I deny it so utterly, and I dig a moat in my mind between the two so wide, that I completely forget that there is a bridge, no matter how narrow and precariously hung, around back.
And so it was with surprise and hesitation that I entered into a conversation with an artist who asked me why I didn't think writing- my writing, in particular- was art.
Because it doesn't have the same aesthetic appeal, I said.
Because there is nothing at first glance to distinguish Gatsby from Eyre, I said.
He told me I was a dumbass and kept on walking.
Upon further reflection, though, I think the issue is more complicated than that, that the moat is not only wide but also hundreds of feet deep.
I think the true difference between writers and artists, between rough drafts and sketches, lies in how they communicate emotion. Artists are infinitely more blatantly expressive; they use color and lines as boldly or sadly or humorously or ecstatically as they are feeling. They can connect to their audience through visual stimulation, directly addressing their viewers' eyes, and in a second the audience feels for the artist, feels for his or her life and aspirations and beautiful, complex thoughts.
We writers, on the other hand, are creatures of quiet subtlety. We weave our passions and our desperations beneath layers and layers of figurative language and line breaks and convoluted plot points. We appeal to our readers' intellectual centers, to their brains, and make them work to feel as we do.
Even the ways in which we bare our souls to you differ. As a writer of fiction, I speak to you not through my own voice, not through my own soul or even my own mind, but through my characters. Mere reflections of my innermost, deepest self, they can speak to you in ways I never could. Because I am scared, because I don't think it would be interesting, because I fear letting you- all of you- in, I speak to you through Liam and Mark and Jane and Edwin, all distinct personalities who have experiences and thoughts entirely separate from my own. Like trying to understand a parent by getting to know her children, I am there but only in the capacity that I helped shape these people. I did not determine their fates; they did.
But artists, painters and drawers and sculptors and photographers and sketchers, they show you the world through their points of view. Picasso and da Vinci and Kruger and Cassatt never professed their passions through a second party; they created direct windows into their own souls.
Artists are more direct, more blatant, more audacious than I as a writer could ever in a million years be. We may share the same fears of rejection, of honesty, even of complete acceptance, but I could never bare my soul in the fashion of artists.
And it is for that reason that I, personally, can not consider writing, if just my own writing, to be art. It as a technique and a genre is equally as beautiful and thought-provoking and evocative, to be sure, but it is not Art, for to be so would be to let go of all fear and reason and descend into the madness and chaos of pure, unbridled passion, into the depths of humanity's collective unconscious.
So, I'm sorry to my artist friend, but I am not one of you. At least not yet.