Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Quality of the Artist

On a writer's web group that I belong to, one participant was yearning for a book or somesuch by one of the great writers that would fully explain how to create such masterpieces as they did. It seemed to this person that the musings on writing by the greats is incomplete, possibly because the writers wanted to make their craft seem more of a mystical experience. (He was speaking specifically of Flannery O'Connor, in general of most great writers.)

I thought my response might interest some of y'all, so I'm reprinting part of it here.

Here is my take on what is needed to create great art:

When G-d designated the artist he thought capable of doing his work, he said, “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts…” (Exodus 31:3)

In other words, we need three things (and we need all three of them):

-Things that can be taught (Knowledge of our craft)

-Things that can’t be taught, but can be nurtured (skill, ability – talent and aptitude)

-Things that can only be given by G-d (Spirit, inspiration, the mystical)

I would argue that great artists can NOT explain the full how-to of their work even if they wanted to, that there is a mystical element involved, that the work will always mean more than they could ever intend.

So, in sum: Study (attend classes, review those notes, read books on writing, scrutinize the greats), nurture (exercise the writing muscles continuously, feed the spirit with great art, rub up against fellow artists sharpening one another) and pray (be open to inspiration, brood, and get out of G-d’s waywhen the Spirit wants to work).

And leave the rest – success and failure – to the Wisdom of the Creator.

Just my thoughts,


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