Writing is an art form, and yet I don’t usually think of myself as an artist. Maybe that’s because when I think of art, I think of visual arts (I draw stick figures) or musical arts (I don’t play an instrument or compose music). Logically, I know there are plenty of other forms of art, but I have to remind myself to include them—along with writing—in the “art” category.
Recently, I’ve been mentally comparing the different forms of art because I have a guest post at P.W. Creighton’s blog this week. As I was brainstorming topics for that post, it occurred to me how all types of artistic endeavors have the concept of a muse or a gut feel for when something is working—or not. So then I started thinking about how we could use that general “artistic muse” concept to help us with our writing.
I came up with a blog post with tips for using other forms of art to help us when we’re stuck with writer’s block. I hope you get a chance to stop by and check it out.
Phillip has another post on his blog that ties into this “writing as art” idea, and I saved that link because I loved the concrete way he got me to think about how much writing is similar to other forms of art. He compares writing to sculpture:
“The plot is sculpted with care to gradually reveal the premise to the audience… Creating a plot is no different than a sculptor taking chisel to stone. The idea is in place and it is now just a question of what steps are needed to make it tangible?”
Phillip talks in that post about creating an outline and how writers “sculpt” an outline. *shrug* I’ve been more of a pantser (writing by the seat of my pants) lately, so I look at this sculpting idea a bit differently.
There are many different kinds of sculpture, and they require different techniques. Some sculptors take a material, such as clay, and build it up, little by little, until the end result matches the picture in their head. Others, especially those working in solid materials like granite or marble, must work in the opposite direction, taking a block and chipping away at it until it looks the way they desire.
My pantsing means that I draft by building a story little by little, but then I edit by carving away at all the bits that don’t fit. The scenes that didn’t quite play into the bigger story like they might have, the conversations between characters that went in circles as I was trying to figure out what they’d say, the emotional insights for an arc that ended up going in a different direction.
So I’m both a building sort of sculptor and a carving sort of sculptor. I suspect many writers are similar, but I wonder if others approach their writing in a different way.
Maybe some carve first and build second. Maybe some build and carve and build and carve. And maybe still others would compare their work to kinetic sculptures, like mobiles that fluidly move and change. Taking the comparison a step further, maybe fan fiction is like relief sculpture, where a carving is made on the side of a bigger structure.
Why is any of this important? Because like I talk about in my guest post, I’ve decided that thinking about how writing compares to other art forms can help us work out problems.
If a scene isn’t working and we can’t figure out why, maybe stepping back and looking at our writing like a sculptor will reveal whether it needs to be built up or carved away. Or if an emotional scene is reading flat, maybe thinking like a music composer will help us focus on which emotional notes we need to hit harder or draw out longer. Or if the tone of a scene feels off, maybe thinking like a painter will point out where the scene is too light or too dark.
In short, if you’re anything like me and don’t usually think about writing as being a “true” art form, maybe it’s time to change our attitude. *smile* We all know writing isn’t an exact science, but even beyond that, the techniques other types of artists use to solve their problems just might help us too.
Do you think of writing as an art form? Which art forms do you think writing is most similar to? Are you a builder or a carver or both? Have you ever used other artistic techniques to help your writing?
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