Writing is Not Enough

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Writing for writing sake is wonderful. It can fulfill an individual artistic need; it can be a kind of therapy; it can scratch a creative itch. But it is not enough.

Here in the shed I keep an old guitar. I’ve written about it before. It’s a six-string acoustic Yamaha I bought in the early 1970s when I was in high school with money I made from delivering newspapers. Yes, I was a paper boy, a job that not longer exists. I keep the guitar in the shed to fool around, to combine a few chords for fun; and occasionally write music. Some of it I have shared in myriad ways.

Employing that guitar only to scratch that creative itch would be beneficial, helpful, and maybe even artistically satisfying. But it is not enough.

I contend that any creative endeavor must be shared. It’s part of the continuum of art. Contemplate it. Make it. Share it. Sharing it is part of the process. Music, writing, painting, art of all types is communal. It is meant to be offered up to the world.

And that brings me to this. IMG_3279

Each year, the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, IL conducts a Hemingway Shorts Contest. The word “contest” really doesn’t fit, although there is a cash prize for the best short piece. Mainly, Hemingway Shorts was created fo promote the idea of sharing your art. It calls for submissions and eleven of the best stories, including the top piece, are published in the Foundation’s annual literary magazine. The idea is to support writers of all kinds and writers at varying stages of their writing life. Part of the Hemingway Shorts project includes an essays scholarship for high school students.

It’s time for you to share. Write your story and share it with the Hemingway Foundation for a chance to be recognized and possibly published. The Foundation looks for work that touches the head and the heart, that moves us, that challenges us, that makes us think.

Come share your work. Share with us. And maybe someday I’ll record a song here in the shed on this old guitar and let you have a listen. After all, that would be in the spirit of things, now wouldn’t it?

4 thoughts on “Writing is Not Enough

  1. I agree completely.

    Art is a communicative, collaborative enterprise. It cannot exist in a vacuum, and no artist I know creates in order to put the fruits of his labor in a closet or on a shelf. J. D. Salinger may have spent decades in solitude, jealously guarding his work from the world; but I would bet my last dime that deep within him was the realization if not the yearning that one day, his writing would find the light of day.

    At its heart, making art is a profound act of the ego. It says the creator has something of value to offer, perhaps a feeble light to help illuminate the path as we grope our way through life; but the process only achieves completion when there is a connection with a reader, a listener or a viewer. And if the message resonates, that is creative fulfillment worth its weight in gold.

    And there is one other aspect to this communication: it can work in reverse with sometimes surprising, very rewarding results. It’s happened to me more than once with a drawing or a painting. The eyes of the beholder have picked up something unexpected — even unintended — that has given the piece meaning to them and provided me with an unexpected insight. That is pure delight!

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    • Well said, as always, Nick.

      I had the pleasure recently of attending a book club that had read one of my books. I’ve done this before and it is always a great experience almost entirely because of that unexpected “eye of the beholder” moment you write about. These readers saw things in characters, in scenes, that I had not even considered in the initial writing. In many cases it was somehow deeper when these readers put their own life experiences into the reading of the story. That communal experience is quite rewarding.

      I hope to write about the experience of a writer attending a book club for his own work in a piece for the Medium and Writing Cooperative websites in the near future.

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  2. I might add, Dave, that the “eye of the beholder” does not always flatter. Sometimes it nettles, as in the response to one of my paintings recently by a person who has been very supportive of my work. I could not ignore her observation, and I resisted challenging her for making it, apart from a rather feeble “that wasn’t my intention.” But as you well know, we send our work forth into the world hoping for the best. The key is not to get those hopes too high. As I’m sure you’ve found, the years pass, and the hide gets a little thicker.

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  3. Thick hide, yes. Very little bothers me now. I had a couple of negative beta readers to one of my books awhile back. My defenses were ready to jump up into action. It was not terribly constructive feedback either. But I held true to what I was attempting to do in that book and it won several awards. Not to say awards mean everything; they don’t. But i learned many years ago that art of any kind is so incredibly subjective. And even what some would call “best practices” in your discipline sometimes need to be thrown out the window. That’s why I tire of these websites, blogs, programs, and workshops that claim to offer the “formula” for writing a successful book. Garbage.

    Do what flutters your heart and hope others are fluttered in the telling. That is all one can do.

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