Writing Is Art

Writing is art. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but it’s a phenomenon that I’m sure veteran writers have been dealing with for ages. What I mean when I say writing is art is that even if the writing is labeled “nonfiction,” it is a creative endeavor. It is not intended to represent the whole truth, nor can it. It is a slice of life, a snapshot, one angle on the truth in any given moment. That is not to say nonfiction writing is a lie – it’s not! But it is a piece of writing. It is not meant to convey the totality of the feelings and intentions of the writer.

writing is artNeither should the writer attempt to explain, justify, or soften the writing. This can be very slippery territory indeed. I’ve never published anything I regret, but I do wish I hadn’t answered questions about some of my pieces, and I have vowed never to do it again. Once, after reading a poem I’d placed in a lit journal, a well-meaning relative asked, “Was this about so-and-so?” She already knew who the poem was about, I’m sure, because enough of the details were recognizable. So the question caught me off guard and I answered, “Yes.”

“I thought so!” She sounded pleased – she’d solved a puzzle. She knew the inside story.  And I instantly regretted affirming her suspicions – because the poem didn’t tell the whole truth. It was only one piece, one facet. If you read that poem and thought, “This is what Jennifer thinks about so-and-so,” you’d be wrong. Did the poem represent a thought I’d had once about so-and-so? Sure. A recurring thought, even. A poetic thought. But it wasn’t the complete story. A poem can’t be the complete story. It’s a poem.  Continue reading

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Write With the Door Closed (or at least at odd hours)

I must write quickly, before interruptions scuttle through my open door like dry leaves on a breeze.

Stephen King says, in On Writing, to write with the door closed, in some sort of sanctified space, a basement or attic or laundry room – anywhere with a good solid door. 

Don’t people knock on his door and interrupt him?

“Knock, knock.”

“Come in.” 

Even that brief exchange belabors the interruption, in my opinion.  The interruptor may as well just waltz on in and get it over with.  My door is almost always open.

King’s advice is sound, though.  If writing is an act of honesty, an expression of my inner self, said inner self can be hard to settle into amid the hustle and bustle of a household.

It is ironic, though, that when I truly make time and space for myself, it’s hard to just “be.”  If I could write whatever I wanted to write, what would I say?

It’s often easier to write around things, to react.  Maybe that’s the real reason I keep the door open.  Not because I believe the interruptions are inevitable, but because I want an excuse not to get down to the real business of writing.  The self-discovery.  That kind of inner work can be uncomfortable at times.

I try, however.  In lieu of closing the door, I work late at night and early in the morning.  When people and animals are sleeping, there are no more excuses.  And in the dark and half-light, the deeper part of me, which I sometimes avoid during the day, feels more accessible.  I can set aside the necessary posturing of my outer existence, the one where I use all my energy to interact with the world.  The jumble subsides and I quiet myself in these times.  I can get in touch with what I’m thinking and feeling.  I can say what I want to say.

For more of Jennifer’s musings, visit. www.jenniferphelpswrites.com