one of the challenges for any writer



cross-posted to The Decadence

One of the challenges for any writer is to find that balance between solitude and intimacy, independence and community.

An artist – and by this I mean anyone who takes art-making seriously, whatever kind of art that may be – is by definition a rebel. The whole point of art is to shake things up, challenge the status quo, get people to look at things anew and maybe, just maybe, alter their belief system.

An artist is a witness: to make art is to make meaning of things, and in order for that to happen you have to tune into the world around you. You have to steep yourself in your own place and time, because even if your work involves a different historical period, you yourself are a product of the culture that shaped you, and your art a commentary on it.

An artist is an outsider: to try and live as an artist is to set yourself against the usual structures of day to day living.

An artist is an outlaw: we steal from the stories around us to make stories of our own.

Rebel, witness, outsider, outlaw: these are all romantic notions, but might lead to an alienation that can slowly crush your soul. They can take you to a place so far outside the ‘normal’ world – and deep inside your own personality – that the things you say through your creations no longer have meaning for anyone except yourself.

Artists take a certain pride in their sense of ‘difference’, probably because that ‘difference’ was a source of shame when we were younger.

But it’s not enough to be different; we also need to be whole.

We need to be connected to something larger than ourselves and experience our place in the world.

We need ties – strong ties – to our community, our society, other people. Otherwise we risk depression and despair – and even the loss of ourselves, since you can’t know yourself without knowing other people, just as you can’t know other people without knowing yourself.


Dec 14, 2009

2 comments · Add Yours

Nice post. I think about this a lot. How to bring the rebel sensibility to harness.


The eternal struggle for balance continues. Following long stretches of writing and immersion in the world about which I am writing, I find myself becoming anti-social, avoiding conversation and being resentful of intrusion. Fortunately I have a 4-year-old whose life brings me in contact with other parents who also happen to be friends. It takes a while to warm up and re-engage in good conversation, but once it happens I marvel that I avoided it in the first place. Thanks for the post. It’s always nice to have a gentle reminder!


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