Is Writing Art?

Is author Peter DeHaan an artist?I’ve never called myself an artist, in large part because I think I’m one of the most uncreative persons on the planet. I’m good at building on the work of others and adept at making something that flows from logic or order, but when it comes to creating something completely new, something unique, something with unprecedented innovation, I fall far short. Pure originality is not my strength.

I’ve grown to accept this, marveling at the free-spirited artists who through some innate ability (aided, no doubt, by years of practice) originate fresh works of genius on a regular basis. Like them, I long to start with nothing and make something, an awe-inspiring something. But for me that seldom happens.

I’m talking about the visual arts, and I’m not a visual artist. What about preforming arts? No, that’s not me either. I can’t think of much worse than to stand in front of people (or a camera) in order to entertain.

So, I’m not an artist; I’m a writer. However, as a writer, I do create, at least partially. I arrange and rearrange words in a way that no one else does. I have my own style; I’ve developed my writing voice. Sometimes the result is a pleasing arrangement, while other times my assembly of letters falls short. Still these words make up my work, my art, my written art.

Like me, I’ve never met another writer who used the label artist. Maybe that should change. Perhaps we wordsmiths need to embrace the creative element, that is, the art aspect of our work.

Last year, I saw my first indication of someone else wondering the same thing. At ArtPrize – an international art competition that celebrates the visual and preforming arts – a group of visionaries dared to produce a book of words as part of the festivities. The result was Imagine This! An Art Prize Anthology. With hundreds of submissions, I received the honor to have my place, albeit a small one, in the finished product.

Now, as I ponder what to submit to this year’s competition, I realize I’m one step closer to considering myself an artist and to calling my writing art. It’s still a strange thought, but I’m warming up to the idea.

[This is from the February 2014 issue of Peter DeHaan’s newsletter. Sign up to receive the complete newsletter each month via email.]

2 thoughts on “Is Writing Art?

  1. My definition of an artist is someone who creates something which gives others pleasure in some form. Cuisine, dance, film, conversation, back scratching, cleaning, gardening, hair cutting? So you are the artist who helps start my morning in a thoughtful and provocative way. I come from a family of artists who would disagree. I guess art is in the eye of the beholder, if not the artist himself.

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