Saturday, February 9, 2013

Is Writing Easy?

I wonder, do we think less of writing as an art form, because we all think we can do it? I know I can’t paint. I know I can’t create a sculpture. I know I can’t write a symphony. But I assume that I can write a novel. Of course, almost all of us can write, to some degree at least. Most of us can handle a shopping list, for instance. But I would never presume, because I can draw a stick figure today, to be able to complete an oil painting tomorrow. I would never presume, because I can hum a pop song, to sit down and compose a symphony. We know that these art forms require years of very specific training and experience. Yet I assume that I can write a novel without any training or experience at all. Even if I did take up painting as a hobby, I might be happy to hang a painting on my wall, but I would hardly expect someone else to buy it.

The more I write, the more I realise how difficult it is to actually get it right. No matter how good I think what I have written may be, the truth is that it probably falls far short of being “good”, despite what friends and family might say. Yet I somehow persist in the belief that people will want to buy and read it.

Perhaps there is another factor at work here, that has to do with how easy it is to distribute our written work. A painting, at least, is a one off piece of work, that can only ever be reproduced approximately. We can only ever sell one exemplar of the original. However, we can potentially sell thousands, even millions, of copies of our books. Does this tempt us into writing, in a way that we are not tempted into painting or the other arts?

Is writing actually “easy” compared to other forms of art? I suspect, given the number of writers who are actually remembered over time (and are not just this week’s best seller), that the answer is “no”. As few writers really leave a mark on the world as do painters, sculptures and composers. However, as much as I might tell myself that I would be better of sticking to writing shopping lists, I know I won’t do that.

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