A guest blog by Chrysalis
Writing is an art. This is a fairly well accepted statement, but what does it mean for an activity to be an art? Some say art cannot be wrong, it is just good or bad. If a painting is called “dog” but looks like a cat, it is not wrong as this is viewed as the artist’s impression of the dog. This can only happen very rarely in literature, as grammar and general comprehension is necessary to ensure some enjoyment for the reader. The Jabberwocky poem, for example, comes close to this by inventing new words that have no meaning, but you can still understand the vague meaning behind it. So can writing be correct within the context on comprehension?
The interesting thing about comprehension in writing is that it’s not always intended. The writer can often leave ambiguities in their work to create some effect, either to allow the reader some freedom or to leave things undiscovered. It is part of the joy of the English language that there is so much room for ambiguity, poetry and multiple meanings. On the other hand, making everything so clear that there is no doubt as to what the writer sees is often very tedious to read. It is perhaps this that makes it an art form; finding the delicate balance between too much and too little.
Take for example the statement “there is a cat on the mat”. It is perfectly adequate to convey the idea, but it is not attractive to look at nor an enthralling idea. It gives you almost no pleasure in reading it, as the person who wrote clearly did not put much effort into writing it. You can take nothing from it, as there is so much that you have to do with it to make it exciting that it requires more input than you expect to get out.
Compare this to, “Magnum’s back was bent in what looked a most uncomfortable position, but her purring seemed to suggest the opposite was true.” Here you can imagine more clearly what is compelling about the subject and get an impression of the person saying it too. Altogether, it is much more provocative and involving.
It is this that makes it art. The fact you can take enjoyment from it, without any clear definition as to why. The ability to create something, however abstract and share it is something precious and fragile. The recipient will almost certainly see something different from what the author first thought of, but this should be seen of as a gift. Art is not meant to simply convey a message, it’s meant to provoke a response. That could be something as simple as imagining a cat or as far reaching as starting a revolution. Art is powerful and words even more so.