I Am Not an Artist, Yet
Do you consider yourself an artist? As the title implies, I don’t. I am a new writer; I’ve only been at it for about five years. Also, as a recently published author I am struggling to discern the difference between craft and art in the written word. Make no mistake, I don’t think I’m anywhere near artistry with my efforts. No, I am still striving to achieve competence in the craft. I’m just wondering where the dividing line is, in general. From what I read lately, it is getting harder to discern what is accepted as competent, much less what is considered art.
Just to set a baseline let me state that, in my opinion; the craft of writing consists of grammar, punctuation and syntax. Usually, I would think that goes without saying except that hardly seems to be true anymore. Almost daily, I see errors in publications that must have Strunk and White affecting the seismic readings near their gravesites. It’s not as if I’m perfect when it comes to grammar, far from it, so when I spot multiple, fundamental errors in a composition it has to be especially egregious. What is also troublesome is the fact that much of what I find appears in prominent and successful publications, places where basic competence should be a prime consideration.
As I said, I still have much work to do when it comes to the sphere of writing. I am putting in a lot of time and effort to improve my skills, and not just to keep from looking like an idiot, though that is a prime concern. No, my desire to achieve at least a modicum of artistry is the foremost reason I’m striving to perfect the fundamentals of writing. Like a treasure hunter digging through the muck in search of buried booty, I’m hoping to find riches of exposition while probing the essential elements of grammar. How can I possibly pound out written wonders like Hemmingway or Dickens if I don’t know the difference between their and they’re, a distinction many current writers do not seem to grasp.
However, that still leaves me with the question of what qualifies as literary art. Shakespeare obviously is, but how many of us can hope to achieve that level of skill. On the other end of the spectrum, at least according to the critics, resides “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I tried to read part of that novel but could only make it through a few pages before I gave up. It just wasn’t my cup of literary tea and didn’t strike me as art, but there is no question about it being a success. The novel and movie have delighted millions of people and isn’t that the goal of art, to reach and emotionally affect as many people as possible? If so “Fifty Shades of Grey” is an artistic success, as blasphemous as that may seem to some.
I’m still formulating an artistic vision for my writing. If I’m successful at all, it will obviously fall somewhere between the extremes of Shakespeare and “Fifty Shades,” both artistically and financially. One thing I have decided is that how much money it makes won’t be a deciding factor in evaluating my artistic success. Don’t misunderstand, it’s not as if I don’t want to make oodles of money, I do. I just view that as an extremely desirable side effect of achieving my actual goal, that of becoming a quality author. I’ve always felt that producing a quality product is the first rung up the ladder of success in any endeavor. I’m hoping that over time and through diligent work, my writing can help prove that theory to some small degree.