Why Literature?

I was reading through a series of interviews conducted by indigenous author, Anita Heiss (@AnitaHeiss), with other indigenous Australian writers.

You can read the wonderful series here.

I have no mob, no country, as I am not an indigenous Aboriginal Australian. I respect the land I live in, and acknowledge the traditional owners of the land where I live, and where I teach: the Darug people, past, present and future.

It was one question in the interview series that sparked my tangential thinking; one question that the creative person must ask of themselves. The question was posed for writers, “Of all the art forms, why literature?” 

The question can be rephrased for any creative forms: “Of all the art forms, why music, or art, or photography, or sculpture, or film?” If I have missed your chosen creative medium, please add it to the list, and I apologise for leaving it out.

It made me examine why I write, to ask why I write.

Here’s the easy answer. I suck at drawing and art. I am an average musician, ok, drummer. I have rhythm but dance is beyond me. Singing is WAAAAY out of the question; my vocal chords produce sounds that are neither mellifluous nor tuneful.

So, why words?

I wrote a manifesto some time ago to explain why I write but I want to explore why I use words as the medium of my creativity.

I find words are a meditation, a mastication of ideas and thoughts which hopefully don’t come out as poo. Words are an exploration and investigation, a divining of questions, framed by the experience of the individuals I write about. Writing is creating and understanding the character of the story, seeing the person as an individual. Not as an archetype but as an identifiable person to explore big (and little) ideas (often the minutiae of life). But I’m not focused on writing parables.

Words give me the opportunity to explore the world as I see it and understand it or want to question it through the perspective of a character. The world of common suburbia is where I place my stories.

Words are the best medium for me to communicate it. There is too great a disparity between what I imagine and my skills when it comes to art or music or any other artistic endeavour other than writing for me to attempt it. Words allow me to bridge that gap. That’s not to say I won’t still dabble with art nor stop playing music; but they are not my preferred medium.

It is words for me.

Of all art forms, why *fill in the blank* ?

Ultimately, it’s a question all creative people must address at some point in their journey.

All great creative types have a unique perspective that allows them to create magnificent works of art. The artist sees through their eyes and through their hands to paint or sculpt. The filmmaker and photographer frame the world through their lens. The musician composes in a language that transcends conscious understanding.

Creative people tell stories with their works of art. The audience engages with the story within the work, or the work creates a story the viewer, listener or reader relates to and begins to pass the story on to others.

Art is about communicating. I choose words over brush, camera or instrument.

Why do you use your chosen medium?


5 responses to “Why Literature?

  1. My easy answer is similar to yours. But, mostly, I just like writing stories.

  2. I told stories through dance, long before I could read and long before I had the capabilities to write them down. And I danced on and off until I left high school (and then just danced in night clubs!)

    I was always crap at art. Being a perfectionist meant I never felt good enough, though I scribbled away (and still have) some portraits I did at high school. I love photography but I never had ‘the eye’ that others had. The problem of comparing yourself. I was happy to be the model for art photos though – and that in itself is a form of artistic expression.

    I played the piano through high school but the rigours of classical music felt stifling. I was always stealing my Grandma’s show tunes books of music for the organ and playing from them. I always wished I’d grown up to be able to sing in a band (like you, cat’s wailing are more tuneful!)

    I was drawn to the theatre but there was something about the solitude of the page that anchored me there to tells stories. And I’m still there telling stories. It’s the frame in which I make sense of the world, record it, share it. I still dabble in other areas, but it’s where I feel simulataneously at home and wonderfully adrift.

    I’d love to hear what someone like Gary has to say about this. Seeing the world through the lens of a camera.

  3. Well, this is tricky. I see process, not artifact or label. I communicate; we all do. My processes function best in the written word, and are equal or better in the spoken. But really, it’s all words. I communicate. My reasons for communicating are many, but mainly it’s to help me delineate to myself my relationship to the world around me and the people around me and their relation to me. Art and science are simply different ways of understanding the world. I convey ideas in words to explore the world around me, and to share the wonderful or alarming things I find, thoughts I arrive at.

    So, why words? It is the form of communication I have the most ease with. I wish I could draw or paint; there are things I want to convey that words will not satisfactorily address. I’m actually not bad with a camera, but there I capture and apprehend things that affect me, as opposed to composing events or moments, like some photographers do (and beautifully, I might add). I enjoy music, but am very much an amateur. I use words because it’s my facility. It’s like asking someone their favorite color. Why green? Blue? Red? There’s an inarticulable sense around the tool or tools of choice, a deed heart-sense that something is *right*. And there may not necessarily be any real gain in interrogating the whys of that beyond reaffirming the thin thread of confidence that keeps us going at any given point in time.

    • A friend commented on Facebook, that for him as as photographer, images is a natural method of communication. He said, “If I want to impart an experience or express some impactful thoughts… I can “see” it rather than finding words, or hear music. In my minds eye I can link thoughts/emotions/messages into an image that I can capture and broadcast to allow others to share. Any other method is like learning a different language… possible… just not fluent.”
      I love the idea of fluency for a creative person; the ability to communicate in your chosen creative area with a vocabulary and diction capable of expressing your ideas and vision.

  4. If anyone heard me play the recorder they’d understand why I chose writing. Been writing all my life really. From Dr Who and the Volcano Men (my 4 page epic) to now.

    But if I am honest I have followed the path of least resistance, the path of ease. Trouble is at some point if you want to really get anywhere, do anything of lasting value, you have to put the work in and that’s what I am doing now (or at least trying to).

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