Artistic Endeavors in Granite and Clothespins

What I love about writing, especially prose, is that when it is done well, it can accomplish many things at once. You can share a story, paint a precise character, address an overall issue, and create a work of verbal art, all at once.

I am in love with the writing process, with the act of putting words on paper and seeing what happens. I love the feeling inside my brain while I am writing. I feel my brain swell comfortably, as it might feel if I were drunk, slightly disconnected from the physical world around me.

When it is going well, there are few better feelings on Earth. I have never come away from a writing session and thought, “That was a waste of my time. I never should have sat down.”

It isn’t that I have always been happy with what I have written. Sometimes, even though I pride myself on having a certain literary artistic quality about my writing, I write total crap. The characters don’t work, the story is contrived, my themes don’t connect, and my prose plods along like a drunken elephant.

But the feeling of writing, the release of endorphins and miscellaneous bodily chemicals produces a sense of euphoria. If nothing quality is produced, I still get that feeling. Granted, it is much better when it is all working, when my fingers are flying and I know what they are leaving carved in their wake is made of granite, instead of clothespins and Elmer’s school glue.

I’ve always thought that to be one of my strengths as a writer. I have a decent sense of metaphor and am extremely interested in the sound and feel of my writing. My prose is at its best when it is a work of art, rather than just a work of fiction.

There is nothing wrong with genre writing. My favorite writers are genre-oriented. I write some genre fiction myself. In fact, I believe “literary fiction” can be written in any genre. Literary fiction hasn’t learned enough from genre fiction, and vice versa. But I have always seen writing as an artistic endeavor, rather than a storytelling process.

My favorite lines on the page are those that leave an aftertaste. When you read them, it is as if you have tasted the delicate creation of a master chef. The syllables roll off your tongue in a way so tasty that it accents the theme and content of the work itself. When it all works together, theme, tone, and content interweave, creating a tapestry stronger for every thread that runs through it.

This might come off as word snobbery. I don’t mean it this way. I firmly believe in what Hemingway said. We are all just apprentices in a craft with no masters. My particular interest in writing is total absorption of the theory behind the craft. I love reading about story structures, spiraling narratives, psychological profiles of classical characters, theories of theme development.

Will any of this make me a better writer? Who knows? But it can’t hurt, and I enjoy the study and practice of it immensely.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at www.jackcampbelljr.com.

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