Why write

Dear artistic reader,

As a part of a recent grant application, I had to come up with an artist’s statement. I decided I couldn’t do it. I’m not an artist. I’m a writer. A former newspaper reporter turned novelist. And even if I were to imagine myself an artist, what kind of statement am I trying to make? More importantly, what exactly IS an artist’s statement?

As is often the case when I want to avoid writing, I turned to Google. This was one of the first references that came up …

“Why do I have to write an artist statement? It’s stupid. If I wanted to write to express myself I would have been a writer.”

Ummm, wait a second. Somehow both of us, artist and writer, think we shouldn’t have to do this – the artist because she’s not a writer, and the writer because she’s not an artist.

But I was serious about the grant application, so I contemplated and typed and deleted and started over again. As I worked on it, I considered my roots. I come from two families of readers and writers. My husband joked when we were dating in high school that our house was like a library. When my parents did turn on the TV, we all read books and magazines even as we eyed the program occasionally.

So maybe my brain was preset to love the written word. My mom is a poet. Perhaps I inherited her ear for language, or maybe she taught me as she read me stories and poems.

Eventually I came up with a single page that described where I had been and where I hoped to go with my writing, with my art. And I ended with two sentences that felt right:

“As a writer, this is where I find the joy – in the work. I want to weave stories and sculpt characters. I want to put the world of my mind to the page, and invite others to inhabit it.”

It is true, and concise. My own statement as an artist.

Then this last week I stumbled for the first time across a friend’s blog, appropriately called Scribbler’s Quest. And what Morgan Hale said rang very true.

“The fact is, if you call yourself a writer it’s because you quite simply don’t have a choice … nobody would willingly choose this kind of life. You spend years, working on something that sometimes you’re the only one who sees. You get very little support, and sometimes you’re outright told to do something “real” with your life. You have to work, very hard, for hours at a time, for no pay and with no promise of ever getting paid.”

Now there’s a true artist statement. I write because I have to. Because it’s who I am. Sometimes it’s hard, even frightening. Often it leaves me lonely and unsure. And every once in a while it offers a jolt of pure joy. Much like life.