Most of us think of art and fiction more or less in the same breath – the writing of great fiction most certainly being an art – but let’s put this obvious connection on the back burner for the moment.
You don’t just wake up one morning and call yourself an artist. No more than you do a writer. Picking up a paintbrush and standing in front of a canvas doesn’t make you an artist. Dropping a chunk of clay on a pottery wheel and digging your hands into it doesn’t make you a potter. You can probably see where I’m going with this. It takes extraordinary dedication, practice, and skill to turn a blank canvas into a true work of art. The best potters spend thousands of hours trying to raise their craft to the level we call art.
Writing great fiction definitely takes talent, but it takes more than that. The subtleties of fine writing don’t just happen. They come with time, refinement, and thousands upon thousands of words. They take understanding. Often what you think is good today will strike you as needing work tomorrow. And that’s a good thing. A great artist evolves from something less than that over time. Same with the best writers of fiction.
Here’s another thing. I can look at a painting in a world-class museum and see something magical: a work of art. You might see the very same painting and walk right past it, unimpressed. It doesn’t matter what a critic says or writes about that painting. His or her comments don’t dictate a painting’s worth. That’s for you and I to decide.
Same goes for good fiction. As a writer, you can’t give any one person’s opinion more weight than it deserves. There is always someone with a negative word. No problem. Just keep writing.
The beauty of painting, pottery, sculpture, or whatever your chosen passion is that you don’t have to start out to create a work of art. It’s all about expressing yourself, and it’s the expression that sets you free. The very same goes for putting pen to paper.