The Nature of Writing
Why writing is special as craft and art
We are professional writers and hope you intend to sell a book or article.
We assume you have chosen to write for an audience. You have decided to expose yourself, at least your thoughts, to the world. Choosing to be a published or produced writer is no small matter. Writing is intellectual and emotional exhibitionism.
Regardless the form of a work, it reveals thoughts and values of its creator. Even with lies, exaggerations, and omissions, a writer cannot hide his or her thought process. The moment the first word is recorded, the author becomes both powerful and vulnerable. When people read, they try to guess who an author is. What clues will you provide?
You are in your works.
Something to Say
Artistic expression begins the moment you decide you have something to say to other people. You believe you have a new insight or a better way to express an idea. This is an instance of artistic ego. There is nothing wrong with ego. Trust us, after a few rejections ego is what keeps a professional writer or artist functioning.
What you have to say and your intended audience both dictate how you write. Always keep these two questions in mind:
- What am I saying?
- To whom am I saying it?
We dedicate an entire session to these questions.
Even television series with teams of writers assign stories to one or two writers; the teams convert the stories into scripts.
Writing tends to be a solitary activity. The writer sits at a desk, or almost anywhere he or she can use a clipboard and notebook, and writes. For many writers a “flow” develops and they are lost in thought. They write pages without pausing, each word leading naturally to the next. During these periods an artist is like a marathon runner ignoring other runners and everything else but the course ahead.
We know writers who have offices to avoid distractions. Others turn off phone ringers, cell phones, and other annoyances. A writer might listen to music, or even have a television on for background noise, but he or she is focused on writing.
After the initial draft is written, writing becomes a team effort. There are agents, publishers, editors, directors, publicists — all wanting (and some demanding) influence over the final form.
Because you create alone, working to convey your opinions and your style, it is essential you trust those who will alter your work. Ideally, they help improve the work.
As in any field, there are introverts and extroverts in writing. Some writers enjoy the thrill of opening night, the first book signing, or letters from fans. Others want to create, and then be left alone to create again. The romantic image of the isolated writer, sitting alone at a desk, writing by candlelight, does not reflect how most of us work. (Some of us would like such quiet time, though!)
Some writers prefer privacy and anonymity, believing they are exposed enough without media attentions. Studies have found most, but not all, published writers are introverts. Psychologists theorize writing allows introverts to communicate their views comfortably.
A handful of writers never reveal their names, either for concern of privacy — or safety. Writers have been at the front of many social, philosophical, and political movements. Words can motivate groups to action, yet few writers aspire to leadership. Writers daring to challenge political or social powers often believe they most hide their identities to survive.
Thankfully, the people we know who have opted to use pseudonyms are simply shy or attempting some creative marketing.
Other writers crave attention in all forms, not only through literary success. These writers develop and cultivate public personas. Eventually, it becomes difficult to judge their works without considering their popular images. However, these writers can be and sometimes are as gifted as their publicity implies.
It does not matter if a writer prefers quiet solitude or the glare of the camera lights. He or she is still an exhibitionist of the most radical nature.
Romance writers confront lust, loss, anger, and love on a regular basis. How they portray these emotions and the related actions reveals something about the authors. Each romance writer has a unique view of relationships.
Each genre exposes aspects of the authors in a different manner. Westerns tend to reveal views on justice. Science fiction has a tradition of promoting social values. Epics favor the importance of families and loyalty.
A master told his art students to stand nude before a mirror and sketch what they saw.
“I cannot reveal myself,” one protested.
“You are right,” the master agreed, “and you paintings stink because of it.”
To be a writer, to be an artist, is to accept who you are and understand that you have chosen to reveal yourself to others. Not all writings are created to share, that is understandable, but some are. If you do not want others to know your thoughts, you should not be a writer.
Writing as Art and Craft
As mentioned earlier, writing is a collaborative art between the author and the reader.