Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What We Do, Not Who We Are

Just a question: for those who are writers here, do you consider yourself as artists?

This question was brought to my attention a couple of weeks ago when a friend expressed surprise over my declaration that I didn't consider myself an artist and that my writing was not 'art'. Is that so bad or strange a viewpoint? For me, writing (including my short fiction) is 'craft': nothing more and nothing less.

That said, the friend told me that the writing process involves putting myself into the created work, and this is why it should be considered as an art. But I countered that my fiction is nothing more than a craft, a work-- or story-- I create based on certain writing 'tools' I take from a writing 'toolbox.' (Yes, I know this is a writing cliche.)

If I'm not clear, don't worry. I'm having a hard time meself explaining why I feel this way, and how I don't consider myself an artist-- even though I do understand my friend's position. (Like a bird and a fish explaining to each other their respective environments.) We both understood each other on an intellectual level, but at the heart of it, we just don't understand-- or accept it.

Am I just being pragmatic? Maybe. Who knows? At the basic level, I don't consider myself a writer-- more like someone who writes. But as someone who does 'art'? Not even.



bhex said...

hi, bc. if i may, i believe your impression of what "art" is might just be a bit too high :P

let's see... i believe anything that affects other people profoundly is art - this is from their point of view. at the same time, anything that you produce in order to purge your personal demons, or glorify your private angels, is art - from your point of view. this way, a "craft" can be an "art," depending on who's looking. one person may say one of your works isn't art, but you happen to think it is - therefore it is art, incontrovertibly. it just doesn't have to be very good art, but there you go.

(of course then we'll have to define what makes "good" art, but that's something i don't feel like touching with a ten-foot pole right now.)

if an author relies more on technique than on emotion or anything else while practicing a skill, and expects material compensation (aka payment) for it, then i believe the act of doing it is called a "trade." i hesitate to call it a "craft" because that's much too vague, compared to "trade," which i define as something strictly requiring income. sorry if that sounds too strong, but sometimes i do need to set certain delineations.

personally, i subscribe to the nick joaquin school of writing - "there are no hack writing jobs, only hack writers." a truly good, professional writer respects all the material and imbues oneself into everything one writes - and turns everything into art.

...whether or not the nick joaquin school of writing will accept me as a subscriber/amateur practitioner is of course out of my hands >P

banzai cat said...

hi bhex! thanks for the response.

hehe my view on art: too high? maybe. still, that's an interesting-- and different-- perspective: writing as trade. definitely would get my friend riled up again. so i have to ask: why do you consider the word 'craft' as too vague?

lemme see if i understand you right. Whatever work affects is 'art' and if it doesn't affect you, it's not art. did i get that right?

i still do think it's not what we think, but what others think of what we do that makes our work art. for example, joaquin's statement delineates that we produce the best work we can do-- and then it can be considered as art. mind, he doesn't consciously turn it into art but rather, like an alchemical process from lead into gold that we don't understand, it becomes art.

the process, of course, remains the question that we will not be able to answer. if anyone does, then making a david or mona lisa would be that easy.

Ryan said...

a creative work like anything fiction would be art (ex. LoTR) but a summary of things, like a newspaper article or police report with "just the facts" is craft?

i'm not sure craft would be the right word since to me it encompasses both the creative and the uh, left-brain work?