I have such admiration for artists. Painters, illustrators, photographers, sculptors, musicians, designers, dancers, and more: they all reflect and refract the world through their work, providing us with insight, delight and occasionally a new perspective on life.
Yet, like writers, artists sometimes need editors too.
A large—and sometimes unwelcome—part of being an artist today is the necessity to promote oneself and one’s work. In addition to dedicating themselves to their practice, artists must also compose copy for their websites, engage with social media, apply for grants and residencies, craft clever statements about their inspirations and intentions, summarise their lives into pithy bios, and explain themselves and their work in essays, articles and interviews.
Most of these activities involve writing of some kind and all require a proficiency with language.
For some creative people, writing is simply another form of art, as enjoyable and innate as their primary practice. For others, however, it is far from their preferred medium, and the process of translating thoughts into words can be daunting.
Often in their writing, artists are trying to turn the cryptic into the concrete. It doesn’t always succeed.
Sometimes what is written about art—by artists and critics alike—is so convoluted and abstruse that it is almost incomprehensible. This may, on occasion, be a deliberate device to demonstrate the complexity of the concept or the erudition of the author, but it is of little use if the meaning is rendered unintelligible.
At other times, the difficulty lies in simply framing a clear statement. Ungainly phrases struggle to convey intangible ideas and elusive truths, and again the meaning is lost. This is especially problematic when artists seek to convince judging panels through written submissions that their art is worthy of recognition or funding. If the panel members can’t make sense of what they are reading, they are unlikely to view the application favourably, regardless of how much merit it might have.
The key for artists, and for all astute writers, is to use words that are considered, creative, precise and persuasive, which of course is easier said than done.
It takes effort to achieve such artful writing, and it’s not a skill every artist wishes to develop. Nor do they need to.
If you are an artist, then rather than worrying about where the full stops go or doubting your chance to get that grant because you are not confident with your written expression, a better approach is to find a sympathetic editor who can help you communicate your intention clearly and effectively. It won’t relieve you of the need to wrangle your tangled thinking into words, but it will mean that ones you produce are more purposeful and professional.
That way, you can go back to doing what you love, and we can enjoy your wonderful creations.
Do you struggle with writing as an artist? Have you ever asked a language expert for help? What do you wish you understood better, in order to improve your written expression?