It’s been a while (I think) since I did a purely introspective piece in Life and Art, but in the maelstrom of activity which followed the Freshly Pressed event the other week, I began to think a bit more than usual about how I write and how my writing has been informed by the whole experience of my life, and I thought it was worth a post at least.
The creative writing item picked up by Freshly Pressed was a late-night last-minute stream-of-consciousness effort about a topic I had happened upon in The Guardian. Had I known that over the next few days some 9,000 people would stop by to read it (for the most part more experienced, knowledgeable, professionally concerned and seriously interested in the topic of creative writing than I) it’s fair to say I might have been paralysed into silence.
It’s a measure of how far I’ve come in this whole blogging business that I didn’t run away and hide in embarrassment at the prospect of ‘real’ writers reading my work. Because naturally I don’t see myself as a ‘real’ writer: I find it hard enough sometimes to see myself as a ‘real’ artist. I live in the fear that one day someone will turn around and catch me out and point the finger in dramatic fashion and declare to the world at large “YOU aren’t an artist!”
Having said that, I spent much of my legal career (law degree, postgraduate law degree, French law diploma and practicing certificate notwithstanding) living in fear of being outed as a pretend lawyer. So it’s clearly just me that finds it hard to believe that I am what I present myself as to the outside world.
Anyway, in this whole debate about what can be taught and what can’t, it set me wondering at a personal level about why I paint/make art/write as I do. I began by thinking about this in relation to art, but strangely that’s a much more complicated analysis, and a subject for another day. In the early years especially, I read so many books on “how to” paint/draw/express and listened to so many teachers that I lost my voice and it took me an eternity to find it again.
Interestingly, not so writing. Writing has been as much a part of my entire life as drawing, but I never tried to consciously do anything with it, or learn more of the craft, or improve it. Isn’t that odd? I wrote non-stop and compulsively for years in journals, in correspondence, for pleasure, but nearly always privately. With no outside influences other than a voracious appetite for books of all sorts and a few encouraging English teachers, and not caring in the slightest about how I should or should not write, I now realise to my surprise that my written voice has been able to retain authenticity of expression at many times when my art ‘voice’ has struggled. Writing is my default mode of being.
And then in the midst of all this introspection, I realised how much my style of writing has been informed by life’s experiences as much as anything else. I write as I do because pretty much my entire life has been spent endeavouring to communicate as clearly and as simply as possible. I am driven to try and write with clarity and structure because
… I grew up with a profoundly deaf sister, and communication was only possible if it was concise and simple;
… As a lawyer I believed that deep understanding of law was best evidenced by explanations and advice being delivered in the plainest of English; and
… As an artist with those specific past experiences, I am committed to communicating about my art and the art world in general in language non-artists can readily understand.
So that’s me. What about you?