Why does a writer write? Because a writer has a talent for it. Or, if not a natural talent, a passion to cultivate one. I often think of Van Gogh, whose work I have grown to love as I get older. I was never keen on it when I was young. A few years ago, there was an exhibition of his drawings (and a handful of his final paintings) at the Met. I realized he had given everything of himself to transform what was little more than a mediocre talent into a new narrative of line and colour. He sold only one painting during his life. Today, he is called the father of modern art. That stays with me, when the going gets tough.
“My working method has more often than not involved the subtraction of weight. I have tried to remove weight, sometimes from people, sometimes from heavenly bodies, sometimes from cities; above all I have tried to remove weight from the structure of stories and from language.” – Italo Calvino
“…I realized that I would greatly prefer to think of literature as a profession, an art, a science, or pretty much anything else, rather than a craft. What did craft ever try to say about the world, the human condition, or the search for meaning? All it had were its negative dictates: ‘Show, don’t tell’; ‘Murder your darlings’; ‘Omit needless words.’ As if writing were a matter of overcoming bad habits—of omitting needless words.” Elif Batuman
and yet can we write without it?
It shows how badly I keep up with literature that I visited Melissa Marr’s website and discovered Wislawa Szymborska.
Time retains its sacred right
to meddle in each earthly affair.
Still, time’s unbound power
that makes a mountain crumble,
moves seas, rotates a star,
won’t be enough to tear lovers apart: they are
too naked, too embraced
too much like timid sparrows.
I’ve been reflecting on the difference between writers and artists. Mostly artists are in interested in the process even they’re impatient to finish their work. While writers are mostly interested in writing “The End” (with a sigh of relief) on the final revision. I saw a Constable exhibition in London a few years ago. Many of his studies were like finished paintings. I’ve started to wonder whether multiple drafts are similar to preparatory studies for large scale paintings.