Friday, July 11, 2008
Own Your Own Piece!
I've been thinking lately about what it means to own your own piece of the artistic landscape. Understanding your unique Voice, whether that be in literature, painting, jewelry-making, cake decorating, web design, pottery, gardening..., is crucial to establishing your self-confidence as a creative person.
We're surrounded with incredible examples of creativity, masters of their craft, and while I always advocate steeping oneself in the masters to learn, to be moved, and to gain inspiration, there's an inherent danger in admiring others when we've yet learned to accept and admire our own talent.
When you own your own piece of the artistic landscape, you can appreciate someone else's work and pull from it lessons to use in honing your own talent without falling into the trap of comparing yourself and coming up short. Comparing yourself leads to fear which cripples your artistic instincts until you turn away from that inward light and allow your budding talent to whither and die.
For example, I greatly admire the writing style of Dean Koontz. He has a languid, liquid prose that spills gently across each page, gathering in his readers and surrounding them with imagery that feels like poetry come to life. If I were to compare myself to Koontz, I would hang my head and bemoan the fact that I will never write with such poetic ease, wrapping my scenes with paragraphs of description that feel like fine wine and slowly dancing my readers through a manuscript of lush word choices.
Unless I'd already understood that the strength of my writing style is spare, lithe, swift-moving prose where every word must convey both emotion and character and where my two sentence descriptions at the beginning of each scene must be tiny masterpieces crafted to instantly light the movie screen in my reader's mind with unforgettable sensory descriptions designed to stay with them through the remainder of the scene.
Then, I wouldn't hang my head. I wouldn't envy Koontz or feel discouraged or toss in the towel. Instead, I would study his imagery, delve into his word choices, his attention to detail, and apply it to what I must accomplish with MY Voice.
I can do that because I own my piece of the artistic landscape. I know who I am as a writer, what I'm best at writing, what will work for my Voice and what won't. I'm not a writer of lush, page-long descriptions like Koontz. I'm not a master of creating an incredibly large cast of instantly recognizable characters like Rowling. I'm not a world-builder like Tolkien. I'm a writer who delivers fast-paced, imaginative urban fantasy with plenty of humor, grit, and heart.
When I read King, Rowling, Roberts, Koontz and others, I don't feel discouraged. I feel inspired and challenged. The beautiful thing about art is that there is always room on the shelf, the gallery, the store front window, the flower box, or the bakery display case for one more master.