Is Writing an Art?

La Maison du pendu by Paul Cézanne

Google points out this morning that the French artist Paul Cézanne would be 172 today. Happy Birthday, Paul! Cézanne was a Post-Impressionist painter who “used planes of colour and small brushstrokes that built up to form complex fields, at once both a direct expression of the sensations of the observing eye and an abstraction from observed nature.” (Wikipedia)

It has my brain tossing around ideas about writing and art. At times (long ago) I painted – mostly landscapes and still life in oils. I’ve also muddled with clay, creating sculpture and pottery. I don’t consider myself an artist, but I find it difficult to unearth an adequate definition of either art or an artist. The Encyclopedia Britannica suggests “Art is the use of skill and imagination in the creation of aesthetic objects, environments, or experiences that can be shared with others,” but that tells only how it’s done rather than what it is.

During the Renaissance, “art” meant painting, sculpture, and architecture, and later also music and poetry… the basis of what was known as the ‘Fine Arts’. What elevated specific pieces above being mere craft, however, was the element of inspiration.

Some of my family members use brushes and colour, music, words and wood to create beauty. I consider them very artistic. When I visit the sites of Ann Voskamp and Sandra Heska King, to single out just a couple favourite blogs, I see original photography combined with words, both poetry and prose, that satisfies my personal interpretation of art.

But not every writer creates poetry. What of novel writing? Is it art? As novelists we yearn for the inspiration to create words that emotionally move our readers. If we succeed, have we created art?

Too many questions! It must be time for my morning coffee — my brain needs a shot of caffeine. Grab a cup and join in the conversation. What’s your opinion on novel writing as an art form?

Update: Not to ignore literary figures… today is also the birthday of American writer, poet, editor and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849), so Happy Birthday, Edgar!


Published by Carol

A freelance writer of fiction and non-fiction living on the West Coast of Canada.

20 thoughts on “Is Writing an Art?

  1. Sure it’s art. I couldn’t define art but there is an experience the artist/writer has and this is conveyed to the viewer/reader through a medium that is not the feeling itself but is so universal, it can be provoked in others.

    It is not the response that makes it art, but that such a response can be provoked makes art possible.

    Made sense as I was writing it – not sure it reads so clearly!

    1. Thanks for visiting here, and for your comment. It makes sense to me… sort of. I think I know what you mean. LOL. It’s really hard to define, isn’t it?

      Update: The more I read your response the more it makes sense. In fact, you may have nailed why writing is art better than anybody else here! Thanks again for sharing your idea.

  2. I am also a painter. My husband often refers to my “artist” temperament?? Not sure what he means. 😀
    My dictionary defines art as follows: The conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty; specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium. ALSO–any field or category of art, such as music, ballet or literature.
    Very good question. I’ve never thought of my “writing” as art though.

    1. That’s an interesting definition, Katt. I wouldn’t have thought it was necessarily a *conscious* production or arrangement, because sometimes when I was painting I did it without really thinking about what I was doing, going more by instinct. And I write like that occasionally, too. That’s when the words fly onto the page without a lot of help from me. That clause, “specifically the production of the beautiful in a graphic or plastic medium” confuses me a bit. Plastic? I wonder what they’re referring to. Thanks for giving me something mor to think about! 🙂

    1. All the writing basics can be learned, that’s for sure, but I wonder if there is a class of literature that goes beyond the learned mechanics… when words slip into a cadence and rhythm that originate in the writer’s heart rather than his or her mind. Are there degrees of artistic writing, do you think?

  3. Writing is absolutely an art.

    To be a great writer, one has to create characters and paint a picture with words that transport the reader into another world. Only a select few can do this successfully.

    Artists are defined as a person whose creative work shows sensitivity and imagination. Check and check….writers fall into both of those.

    1. Nice to hear from you, Joseph! You’re probably right that only a select few can do it *successfully*. Some writers actually transport the reader into the story’s world, while others simply write about it for the reader to try and imagine.

  4. I think novel writing is an art. If poetry is an art, then why wouldn’t novel writing be an art? I’m not any kind of an expert. This is just what I think. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Happy Birthday to those guys, the artists. Blessings…

    1. I’ve always thought of poetry as an art form — and certainly as a poet you understand the unique emotions that a poem evokes, giving them up like a fragrance. I just hadn’t transferred that thinking to novel writing. I suppose the *less beautiful* novels equate to graphic paintings that I see as garish and ugly because I don’t understand them. They still communicate effectively, if not what I want to hear/read/see.

      1. I agree, Carol. We don’t all appreciate every novel, or all poetry, paintings, sculptures, or musical and/or dramatic productions of every artist. We have our personal tastes.

        Is novel writing not commonly considered an art form? I didn’t know that. I guess it doesn’t matter. Maybe I am wrong, but here is why I think novel writing is (or is like) an art:

        The novelist (1) creates mood, (2) reveals a character’s inner self through thoughts, deeds, and dialog, (3) depicts interactions between characters, (4) shows a character’s reactions to words and actions of others, (5) imagines a plot and makes it work with all the articulated detail to cause the reader to see it as well as the author, all to complete a one work of art, the novel.

        All the above-listed tasks of the novelist require the giftedness that poets, painters, sculptors, actors, and musicians possess and hone enabling them to accurately manifest virtual life (or still life) in their respective art forms.

        Blessings to you…

  5. In my case, it’s just an escape hatch. Would leave a longer comment, but there’s this heartbeat sound driving me crazy from below the floorboards in the …… uh, I thnk it’s …….. it’s …… Edgar.

    1. When I was painting it was a form of escape, too… I painted my way through the depths of a minor nervous breakdown and beyond. And BTW, if I heard those Poe heartbeats I probably would never have made it out of those depths! I’m SO not a fan of the horror genre. 😉

  6. Happy Birthday, Edgar. I like to think of writing as art, the same way music and acting is. I can’t describe myself as an artist though. Actually, I’m off to think about that for a while.

    Great post, Carol.

    1. I actually hadn’t thought of acting as art until you mentioned it. But of course it is! The actor communicates with body language and the spoken word just as effectively as an artist does with paint on a canvas or a musician does with an instrument. I suppose that could equate just as much to a writer and his written word, too. I might have to go think some more about this, too!

  7. Gasp! I’m here on Saturday night catching up on my favorite people. I had a comment in my brain until I saw my name–in the same breath with Ann’s? I am undone. My mind is now mush.

    1. Don’t be undone, Sandra… we’ll have to gather up the pieces! 😉 You shouldn’t be so surprised. I know you don’t always use your own photography on your blog, but when you do it combines with your words to create magic. I’m so in awe of that combination, just as I am of Ann’s.

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