On a warm summers eve, I sat and I pondered. Up in the inter world were blogs of all types, subjects, kinds, looks and descriptions. Some short and sweet, some overwrought like that previous sentence. Some telling truths, some stealing, like the previous sentence, and some just outright lies. I am one of those bloggers. Myself I fancied the truths, at least that is what I tell myself. If I could find the point where myself ended and the blog began then it would be true. It is a shifting boundary, but that blog is getting closer.
Somewhere in the truths is the conclusion to “the experiment one and two“. Currently it reads as still to write, and cannot be bothered with it right now. Other projects are of interest. Other posts are working their way to the front of my mind. And as the “100 word fiction” from my previous post demonstrates, that can be a strange place to be.
Since I took the decision at the beginnings of this year, to see if I could get back into writing, to see whether a writer would present himself, I have learnt a whole heap of lessons. Some worth a great deal, others sitting haphazardly a top of each other. For example, within the last few days I learnt a lesson or two from Gene Weingarten from just the introduction to his “twenty slices of life” book (my description not his) the fiddler in the subway, a book I featured in a recent poll when deciding what to read next. See, it all fits together somehow. I might just share that lesson someday, but I’ll say this for Gene, he sure can find his way to the heart of the matter, he sure can inject humour where necessary, and he sure can write. He gives hope that there are great writers out there, shows you that you still have a lot to learn, but demonstrates that with a bit of heart and hard work, it is possible.
Crawling out of the lessons pile, with the beaded sweat of struggle, is a recently returning friend called experience. Flying out of the blog starting blocks, and forcefully kicking a gargantuan pile of words until they landed in the seemingly arbitrary, but actually reasoned form of the daily post, I easily flew past the first 100 posts mark. The “writing itch” also reasoned a way out, but soon with a plan for larger hikes to conquer. I realised that as much as I loved the blog, it was becoming like one last topping at the frozen yoghurt store, and taking up far too much time. And I needed to diet. Or rather, I needed to change my diet to incorporate less dessert, and a bit more healthy main course. I was ready to commit more time to some other projects. Ideas were and have been landing like a man trapped in a bus station waiting for the right bus to get on, only to see the right bus turn up and open it’s doors. I was ready to become a writer. Or a novel writer at least. It dawned on me, had I become a writer of sorts already?
So in pondering, and getting sidetracked with what a long ponder is, I wondered what a writer is. In the past I would have assumed it to be someone who has some written thing published. The dictionary on the Mac operating system defines it as:
“a person who has written something or who writes in a particular way; a person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or occupation”.
But now you can self publish with books or blog posts. I’ve written some technical manuals for business (albeit published internally), and websites. I suppose I’ve written them in a particular way. I spend time daily writing. So does that mean I’m a writer?
I suspect yes, and this is where it differs from being an author. The Mac kindly defines that as:
“a writer of a book, article, or document; someone who writes books as a profession”.
To which I would simply define it as, “someone who writes and gets paid for the writing”. So I would guess with the careful reasoning of a 15 year old who just remembered he forgot to do his Maths homework, that I am a writer, but not an author. On an ironic technicality, the technical manual writings do not count as I was not paid specifically for them, they were just part of a wider project. Ok, there was maybe more reasoning than the 15 year old. Perhaps more akin to a small monkey deciding whether to eat a banana or an orange, on a hot summer evening. He had discounted eating his faeces earlier, but that was an entirely separate matter.
Much like transitioning via an entirely inappropriate metaphor and simile, to a further pondering. So when am I an artist? I would tend to think of an artist traditionally as a painter (not decorator), or sculptor (not plasterer or dry-waller), but more recently as a creator within an art discipline. But then arguably anyone who attempts something in an artistic discipline would be an artist, no? Is that allowed. Helpfully the Mac dictionary defines it thus:
“a) a person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby. b) a person who practises or performs any of the creative arts, such as a sculptor, film-maker, actor, or dancer. c) a person skilled at a particular task or occupation: a surgeon who is an artist with the scalpel”.
This definition does not state as such, but I would include writing as a creative art, but presumably on the grounds that you are shaping i.e. creating something new and not just copying, or putting some text into your own words without adding something of substance in some way. Which kind of means I’m adjusting the definition to suit my needs, much like a poker player might use cards to um, er, I don’t have a good metaphor there, so we shall move swiftly along.
I used to write stories when I was younger. I revisited some of those. They were of varying quality but the basis of several was sound, and something that could be revisited. Was that art? I don’t know. I’ve been creating poems, and short fiction on this blog (other projects aside), is that art? To an extent, I am going to say yes to both. Is it art of the highest order? Probably not, but I’ve seen how some paint has been spilt onto canvas and that called art, so I think I’m on pretty sturdy grounds. Or at least California grounds, earthquake country, so I suppose yes, it is all relative.
Somewhere amongst that, much like a dorito chip plunging into a dip whilst we wait for the bbq to heat up, is me. I’m there in various amounts, more often mild or medium heat, but I’m dipping in, double dipping, and scraping up the bowl. And trying other dips. There are several slices of me in the blog, and various degrees of naughtiness. I’ve had comments with other bloggers about disclaimers in posts, and the conclusion was that if one was necessary, that it should go at the end of a piece, leaving the reader free to read and form opinion without expecting “the controversial bit”. This is so your “art”, speech marks appearing necessary still, can breath and be as one, or some such existential nonsense. Or if nothing else, the reader can approach with limited expectations other than those you as the artist, have shaped. I often use one in the middle of my “Monday Haiku” posts but that is partially a running gag, and partially to distinguish two similar but separate sections. Obviously you are free to warn your readers any way you wish, but in my opinion, try to treat the readers with intelligence first, it is good for the art, and soothes your writing soul.
So at some point I think I became a writer, although I’m not sure exactly when. I have yet to become an author, because I feel a specific published piece (larger than a blog post) and available to the public, is a good thing to aim for. I am an artist of sorts, I think some of my fiction counts for that (most of which kind reader, you have not had the opportunity to read), if not one trying to improve and expand, like my waistline would be if I was locked in a sweet shop. And in doing all this, I think I am finding which bits are just me. Call it my voice, the soul of my writing, or something similar, but I’m definitely there. Somewhere. But still I have to question:
What do you consider to be a writer, an artist anywhere do you fit in?
Lexicon word of the day: artily.