Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Writers Are Artisans of Words

By Laurie Epps

Writers are artisans of words.  Simply stated this might seem like a very straight-forward thing to say. But it is an advanced concept, and has been deliberated by Philosophers for centuries. 

But what is Art? My definition of art is anything that completes the creative process, and yields itself to that process. If I've learned nothing else by going to college, I've learned that everything in life has a process.

Too often, I feel like I'm five years old, staring down at a page, and trying to figure out what I'm going to create with my crude crayons, and awkward hands. I ask myself, "How am I going to create my masterpiece with such humble elements?"

In my mind, I'm expecting to create a fresco, like on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. We've all been in the place where our ambitions surpass our level of expertise. If we slow down our own expectations for just a minute, we will instinctively know our answer.

“A work of art may be completely created when it has been created as a thing whose only place is in the artist’s mind.” ~ R.G. Collingwood

It seems obvious when we put it this way, but the entire process is dreamed up in our minds before we even begin to write. Or perhaps you're   a bit more like me, where you actually have to be active with your writing to begin to be able to think at all. But the reality is that you'll dream up most of your characters long before you ever begin to write about them. For some of us, to become physically involved with the process just gets our juices going.

The hardest words you'll ever put to
paper are often the first words you write. These words are often thrown to the floor in a wadded up ball, but they are the most important words. They start your thoughts moving in the right direction.

Writing definitely has a process. This process can be slightly different for every writer. However, many of the elements remain the same. We start with an idea, or at least we try to cultivate one. Then we begin to get it out onto paper. This can often be in the form of an outline. My process is that I have to do some free-writing, and then create an outline.

Writers truly are artists, but in a more traditional sense, when we are setting the scene for our story it's very much like a sketch. We are working through I want the cabin to the left, and I will do a Robert Frost kind of theme. There will be a man working very diligently in the woods. Yes, my cabin will be in the woods.

However, the structuring of our story is just a sketch. We will have to add colors later, and render our work to its full and colorful fruitition. As writers, we often get a bit lost in this step. We forget that we have to put down a base, and add the colors singularly. This can be a very tricky endeavor.
We have to be patient with ourselves and with our masterpieces. A fresco or painting isn't done overnight. Often we need to add one color at a time, allowing it to dry in the same manner. 

Our writing can demand we create our stories with that same intrinsic quality that requires a little patience, or a moment in between our addition of various elements. Adding one element at a time, we have to shelf it for the night, and look at it again the next day in between our additions with fresh eyes.

This was best said by Emile Zola, the famous French poet about Manet's Olympia in Mon Salon in 1866:

“That is to say that the work of tomorrow cannot be that of today; you can neither formulate a rule nor give it a precept….. You must abandon yourself bravely to your nature and not seek to deny it."

Haven't we all tried to rush our words at one time or another? When have you done that? What was the result? Please compare it to a time where you waited for your piece to mature. What was the difference? Please share it with us. 

Join the conversation. The Write Conversation.

Laurie Epps is a non-fiction author, essayist, editor, and poet living in Anderson, South Carolina. A seeker of beauty, her is dream is to travel the world one day and tell their many stories. To read more of Laurie's stories visit her Thoughtful Thursday column dedicated to the art of Poetry at: http://1writerlaurieepps.blogspot.com


  1. Don't take yourself too seroiusly. Life's a bummer- you'll never get out of it alive. Dad

    1. Thanks dad, you made me laugh on a dark day for me. That's why I love you.

  2. When I can see the finish line on a first draft is usually when I start rushing my words. Which means an ending that needs major rewriting, and that always frustrates me. I think your post today has encouraged me to slow down more when I get close to the end and really let the story complete itself.

    Thanks for the great post, Laurie! I'll be sending my aunt to read it. She's an artist with paint, and I know she'll love the way you wove art with writing in your article.



    1. Hi Andrea,

      I understand your urgency to crank out a finish product, we all go through it. I too have to remind myself the Sistine Chapel wasn't completed in a day. As a registered decorative artist, I couldn't resist the temptation to combine the two mediums. Thanks for stopping by.


    2. Sure thing, Laurie! And my aunt, who paints, loved your article too. :)