Is Writing an Art?

Is writing an art?
Who doesn’t want to be considered at least somewhat artistic? It’s not a great way to make money unless you’re among the few that hit the big time, but having an artistic hobby is said to be good for oneself, and we all tend to think creative people are somewhat special. Drawing, painting, sculpting, and music are generally considered to rank highly among the arts, but what about writing? Is writing an art, too?

The Making of an Art

When we think of most types of writing, art isn’t something that immediately comes to mind. An exception may be poetry, which is generally considered quite artistic. But can other forms of writing be an art?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, art is the use of creativity, skill, and imagination to create something that’s beautiful or emotionally expressive. I contend that this definition needs to be expanded. If you dig a little deeper, you’ll see that the same dictionary says that any skill can be termed an art. Thus you have the art of salesmanship, the art of diplomacy, and even the art of making friends. Anything you’re skillful at can be considered an art, particularly if you exercise a little imagination and creativity in the process.

How to Be an Artistic Writer

Although it’s true that being a writer of legal documents is an art because you have to do some pretty deep thinking and produce watertight work, I doubt whether anyone would consider a lawyer to be an artist in the truest sense of the word. There are also those who practice the art of brevity in their writing, giving you only the bare facts. Although I appreciate this when I want to quickly get to the heart of the matter, it isn’t always appropriate, and it can be a bit boring to read.

“It was a nice day. We went to the restaurant and had a meal. Then we went home.” It’s all rather ho-hum and boring, isn’t it?

“It was a wonderful day with only a few fluffy clouds scudding across a sky so blue it defied description. We chose a charming restaurant with a courtyard shaded by trees and ate magnificent food to the sound of rustling leaves and a gurgling fountain. After lunch, we took the scenic route home along the lakeshore, rattling and bumping along on the untarred surface.”

It probably isn’t worthy of a William Wordsworth, who would no doubt have waxed considerably more poetically, I would bet that most people would find the second piece is more creative and descriptive. You should be able to form mental pictures from the words used: the lovely weather, the pleasant restaurant, and the bumpy ride home are all more clearly drawn in this word-picture.

Try These Tips

  • Create atmosphere with sensory language. What sights, smells, sensations and sounds would you like your reader to imagine?
  • Introduce an element of the unexpected. Choose words carefully, and create new words and idioms if inspiration strikes. Find new ways to say ordinary things.
  • Your first few lines are important. Use them to grab the reader’s attention.
  • Make understanding what you’re saying simple. Avoid jargon and foreign phrases unless they’re essential in context.
  • Write quickly. Edit and re-draft slowly and with care.
  • Be yourself. Trying to emulate a writing style will produce a poor copy of someone else’s work. The more original you are, the better.
  • Avoid lengthy descriptions.
  • Break rules. George Orwell’s best advice, given at the end of a list of tips to improve your writing, is you should break any and all rules when appropriate.

Any kind of writing can be an art, but creative thinking is the key. Whether you plan to immerse yourself in writing poetry, believe there’s a novel in you trying to get out, or are simply tackling an essay or a blog post, your creative thinking and skill can combine to turn it into a work of art.

Although creative fiction or poetry writing is generally considered artier than factual writing, I have read wonderfully entertaining and interesting non-fiction articles and books. What made them different? There was definitely an element of creativity in the way the information was presented. They made you want to read on and find out more. Any kind of writing can be considered an art, but real creativity is what turns writing into something special. It’s not what you have that matters, but what you do with it.

(Photo courtesy of Asja Boros)

  • Of course writing is art! I can’t believe anyone could think otherwise. It takes as much creativity to write as it does paint, sing or anything else. If anyone doesn’t believe that, they are prejudice against writing.

    • I don’t know. I would classify a writing more as a skill than as an art. I think of art as being something that is done to celebrate somebody’s creativity whereas writing is a daily skill. Of course, there are times when people are writing creatively and this could be considered as art. But the day-to-day writing that everybody does is more of a skilled than an art in my opinion.

  • I’m not sure I really like this explanation as the definition given means that everything and everything is an art. That’s not really addressing the question in hand which most people reading this are asking — is writing an art like painting and other activities usually associated with art. Why isn’t writing thought of in this way? That’s really the question that this article should address.

    • Yes, the definition of “art” is a bit broad for my liking in this article. I still believe writing is an art, but I don’t believe all types of writing should be considered art. For example, business writing is business writing. Someone might be good at it, but it isn’t artful writing except possibly in the subset of business writing. Nobody would ever confuse a business proposal as written art.

  • I don’t believe that writing gets the credit it deserves for being an art. People have the misconception that writing is easy, probably because everybody has to learn to write at some point in their life. But to bring words to life is an art. There’s no two ways about it. In fact, good writing will allow you to see pictures in your mind which is the definition of art.

  • Avoid lengthy descriptions. “Lengthy” is relative to the material you’re writing. If you’re writing a Halmark movie style romance novel…you know, the bare-chested cowboy crap they sell at Walmart…then an entire paragraph about nothing more than the horse the cowboy is riding might be too much. However, if you’re writing a post-modern encyclopedic novel then not spending an entire page describing a horse might be too little. In fact, in a post modern novel…especially of the encyclopedic variety…you could have an entire chapter about nothing more than a horse. It just depends on what works best for the story with consideration to the genre it first in.

    One of the scenes that I’ve never forgotten from Infinite Jest…a post-modern encyclopedic novel…is the one where the main character is sitting in the waiting room of the principal’s office at his school waiting to talk to said principal while everything…and I mean EVERYTHING…in the room that is blue is described…for page after page after page. In a 200 page Harlequin romance that would be WAY too much. In Infinite Jest it was perfect.

    Don’t use lengthy descriptions, but DO remember “lengthy” is relative to the overall length of the book with respect to genre. Think of it this way…instead of saying don’t use lengthy descriptions…don’t use descriptions that readers will consider lengthy. If the book is 1,000 pages it won’t be a secret to the reader before they start reading that something in the book will be lengthy. Most people who read longer books and post-modern novels don’t expect light quick reads. For those who do expect light quick non-thought engaging reads, go to Walmart and buy the book with the “sexiest” cowboy on the cover.

    So remember to consider what your overall page length is projected to be and what genre you’re writing in and that should give you a rough guide as to what “lengthy” is for any and all descriptions in your book/story.

  • Maybe there is someone living inside me…

    Samira Mansouri

         There is something happening inside me, perhaps a new feeling is being given the birth. I don’t know what this is exactly! Perhaps a sense of excitement or a sense of accomplishment…I am getting familiar with new English words…all of them carry a burden of meaning on their shoulders. All of them are pure, honest and sincere.

         Thousands of words are emerging in unlimited writhing sky, similar to numerous stars, twinkling cheerfully. I am getting lost in a galaxy of words. I cannot imagine any ending for this sky…everywhere, thousands of new words, new words and new words. I am silent but excited. You can never deeply comprehend how disable I am to describe how enjoyable, marvelous and strange feeling I am experiencing!

         Words, all of them so powerful, are similar to the sharp axes to reform my statue. My character is gradually evolving with every hook of these words. My eyes, my hands, my fingers and my soul are getting shaped. There is someone living inside me, calling me, asking me to write in English. There is something happening inside me, maybe a colorful butterfly is being given the birth inside my heart. Maybe a silkworm is getting out of cocoon to make a difference in outside world.

         Arrangement of these generating words give me a sense of thrill…a sense of creation. I am falling in love with my every single sentence. How nice, how unique, how exhilarating they are! Perhaps there is someone living inside me that her green fingers can flourish every piece of paper. There is a gardener inside me, capable of making white and plain paper pleasing, green and spectacular garden that every reader can take a rest, free of today‘s tension and anxiety.

          Perhaps there is someone living inside me that her fingers like flexible ballerina in the stage of opera house can create a memorable drama. Oh words! Come and help me to describe what is happening in my heart, come and take my hands to go beyond the reality. I am like a dumb girl who is given the permission to sing, too excited to say even a single word…maybe my dream is coming true. I was reborn.

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