The Writer is an Artist

You’re an artist.  Did you know that?

Of course you are.  Writers use words as their paint and the pages of their manuscript as the canvas.

I was thinking about how long it’s been since I lifted a paintbrush (not just the kind and size designed for painting kitchen cabinets and walls) and yearning to create some art.

Then I started daydreaming about how a writer is like an artist.  She stands back and ponders what needs to be on the page in order to show her reader the world the writer sees in her mind.  She tentatively lays one word on that canvas, then another.  And suddenly the words are flowing so fast, the images are so rich, that page is filled and spills over to the next page.  The writer’s artistic fingers continue placing shining, wondrous words across the face of each page until when the reader opens the book a character steps into his living room, takes him by the hand, and says, “Follow me into this adventure I’m living.”

Sometimes, as an artist, I lay on bold sweeps of brilliant color with a thick brush, sketching in the mere shadow of an image.  I allow the viewer to stand back from the canvas and slowly discern a magical world populated with hinted-at faces, and vivid abstract forms.

At other times I select a fine brush, and carefully paint tiny detailed renditions of the world around me.  I carefully mix and blend my stash of primary colors, creating dozens of new shades and hues that when placed side-by-side build an instantly recognizable image of a person, place, or thing.

It’s the same thing when we sit down to write.  There are days when we sketch a character or his town in broad strokes, leaving it to the reader to create the side streets, the backyards, the homey kitchens in her own imagination.

Sometimes we want the reader to know exactly who we’re describing, writing in such detail that he could greet that character by name should they meet in the street.  We develop the picture of a room until the reader is taken by surprise when she looks up from our pages and discovers she’s not sitting in your faded easy chair, with the organdy curtains flapping in the breeze, while the tea kettle whistles on the hob.

That’s the artistry we own as writers.  The raucous fun of allowing the reader to discover something you’ve hidden beneath your words.  The spark of recognition you create in your reader for a place beloved by the characters in your story.

We create those pictures with our words, just as much as an artist does with paint and canvas.  And we leave a legacy between the covers of our books as rich and meaningful as any work of art in a museum.


What will be your writing legacy?  When was the last time you painted your pages with words that created raucous worlds or orderly drawing rooms?  Leave a comment telling us what you’re working on now, and let us celebrate your artistry.