ARTIST AND WRITER

A friend read my blog entitled Is That a Book I See Before Me? and had some powerful comments on my choice of words.

She said (accurately) that I tend to downplay my writing and promote myself as simply an artist who writes about her art. My writing is sound.  So why was I being coy about putting as much energy into it as my art?

Why was I burying a link from my website to my blog way back in the “About the Artist” section?

Why did I always say “…and I’m also a writer….” instead of “I’m an artist AND a writer”?

When I went back and looked at the text she was looking at, I saw she was absolutely right.

And I realized I have been tentative about pushing my writing forward, yet I say it’s as important to me as my art.

Where did that come from??

There are several issues involved here.

1) In a marriage, usually one spouse takes on a set of tasks, and the other spouse takes on another set of tasks. We may complain that it’s usually gender-based, but it is a valid strategy for an organization (a household) to make. It’s more efficient to have every person good at a few things, rather than everyone sort of okay at a lot of things. Until you lose one person, that is.

In my case, Jon has been earning a living as a writer since he graduated from college. It felt awkward to think I could write, too, or that my writer would be as “excellent” or as “important” as his is. (That didn’t come from him, it came from me, unconsciously.)

In the last few weeks, Jon has made a point of telling me my writing is good–really good. I was surprised how wonderful it felt to hear him say that. A sign to me of how worried I was to be seen as competing with him in his area of competency.

2) It took me years of making art before I could confidently state, “I’m an artist” and feel like it was the truth, not puffery. It’s just taken me a little longer to get there with my writing.

3) I’m aware that my website is all about my work and the mystique I’ve created in my processes and my story. The blog feels more exposed, more exploratory. I always wonder what my customers would feel about me struggling with this issue or that, or complaining about the “difficult people” in my booth, for example.

This led me to the heart of it.

4) Years ago, someone (anonymous, of course) posted that it was a bad business decision to write so honestly about the ups and downs of being an artist, to admit setbacks and disappointments. It made me look unprofessional. An artist is supposed to look like a duck–swimming along, with all the hard paddling work unseen beneath the water.

I would alienate potential customers and galleries with all my whining and struggling.

There was just enough truth in that snarfy comment to let the knife slip sideways between my ribs and into my heart.

So I felt like I had to keep those two worlds separate, at least until I was famous enough to have a coffee table masterpiece of a book dedicated solely to my artwork written about or by me. Then people would want all the stories.

This latest “challenge” was made with love and respect and good insight. It got my dander up just enough to realize I do care passionately about my writing, too, and would be devastated to give it up. I am going to proceed with all the conviction it needs.

It also came with some really great advice on how to proceed, so it was a double gift.

I am blessed with such a wonderful readership, with people who read regularly and offer support and encouragement along the way. Thank you all!

I thank my husband Jon for his instant support when I told him it was time for me to write another book. Thank you, sweetie!

And a special thanks and a hug to Amy Johnson, for your bravery to ask such hard questions of a new friend. I am grateful. Thank you, Amy!

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7 Comments

Filed under art, courage, life, mental attitude, mindfulness, writing

7 responses to “ARTIST AND WRITER

  1. Bravo for you, luann!

    And I suspect that none of the “difficult” customers think they’re difficult at all….they’ll all be sure you’re talking about someone else when you’re writing about them.

    And whoever told you it was “unprofessional” to write honestly about being an artist was dead wrong. Anyone who has taken the time to both read your posts AND put them into practice, will become a much more professional artist than all those who think that being an artist is all fun and no work!

  2. You have a unique point of view and the talent to express it. Let that light shine.

  3. I say go for it!

    And ignore that “unprofessional” comment. I think it’s more unprofessional to make people think that being an artist is all fun and games when it isn’t. Plus, people expect artists to suffer for their work anyway ;)

  4. “4) Years ago, someone (anonymous, of course) posted that it was a bad business decision to write so honestly about the ups and downs of being an artist, to admit setbacks and disappointments. It made me look unprofessional.”

    This is huge — it’s good of you to bring this out in the open. Yet this is a large part of what blogging is about. Your willingness to write about exactly that, the painful and difficult stuff, is what makes your blog so compelling to read.

    It’s dull to read a blog that’s just “Look at me, I did this!” and “Then I did this, I’m such a success!”

    That feels like corporate puffery and artist ego combined, yuck.

    But it is a challenge, isn’t it? I’ve posted on my blog about some dumb mistakes I’ve made — because it’s interesting and so others can not make the same mistake. But I have wondered, “Gosh, have I gone too far, do I need to post some postive things too to balance that?”

    I can totally relate to what you say about how we describe ourselves.

    Though I’ve had articles published in trade journals since 1997, it’s only recently that I’ve added to my bio, “Elaine Luther, artist and author.”

    It started with my Squidoo Lens bio, where I decided to call myself that.

    And that was before I had my first article accepted to a mainstream, national magazine.

    Sort of the reverse of your situation. I admitted to the world, okay, I’m a writer too, and then I officially became more of one.

    Thanks for being so willing to bare your soul.

    I’ve been gently guided to loosen up a bit on my blog, and I’m working on it. Thanks for showing me the way.

    Elaine

  5. Bobbi, thank you so much for your comments and support. I’m delighted you feel you’ve benefited from my blog.

    MeggieCat, that is high praise from a blogger known for her extreme generosity of spirit (YOU!) Thank you!

    Nicolette, you have so much experience as a blogger (with several blogs, how do you do it, girlfriend??), I appreciate your viewpoint–thank you!

    And Elaine, as always, WOW! Excellent thoughts, and I thank you for the encouragement and commiseration. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who thinks about these things!

  6. Hi Luann,

    I saw this blog on Clint Watson’s web site. You are a gifted writer – I have no doubt about that! And since I am a published writer, I can say that it’s my professional opinion.

    Recently, Clint has been posting some of my blogs – ones which confess my struggles and offer a bit of how I’m dealing with the challenge of solving them. It’s gratifying to receive comments from readers that I hit the nail on the head with them and helped in some small way. Even the most successful artists have struggles – I know a few of them, and they are completely human. It certainly hasn’t hurt their art careers to reveal their human side.

    Please read my blog on procrastination on fineartviews.com and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

    Keep up the great work!
    Your friend,
    Lori

  7. I too have struggled with the question of the purpose of my blog. What should I be writing about? Would I turn off my customers if I talk too much about my family and friends? Would I turn off my family and friends if I talk too much about my business? Would I expose myself as a loser if I admitted I got rejected or completely bombed at a show? Why do I even write for public consumption anyway? I should be making art instead.

    Writing is an art form though and if we feel compelled to do it, we should, no holds barred. Keep it up!

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