Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why Do You Write?

Lately I've been reading the blogs of artists of many different stripes. Writers, painters, photographers, a quilter (yes, I said a quilter), and an illustrator. One thread at Paul Butzi's site illuminated the meaning of photography for Mr. Butzi, explaining where he found the value, what his goals are.

The main point of his discussion was the fact that the end physical product of his efforts, printed photos, was only a side-effect of the meaningful part of photography, an accident of the learning process. The part of photography that matters most to him--carrying a camera, seeing, learning, figuring out what it is he's trying to say with the things he photographs--exists irrespective of the final output. He claims--and I believe him--not to care if people react well to his work. The value is not in their responses to his efforts, it's in his own responses and growth.

This line of thinking was a revelation to me with respect to my own photography. As much as I cherish the process of photography and the ways in which it makes me see better, I do care how people respond to an image I've made and like. I'm not sure I'll ever entirely abandon caring for an audience response, but the idea (tied to a notion of his that Art Is a Verb, rather than a noun) has certainly changed the way I approach the process of photography.

Ultimately, Mr. Butzi's thoughts have got me thinking about what writing really means to me. In the end, if I do it entirely, or even mostly, for the audience, I'm left with nothing should I fail to be published. And, even if I do get published, the meaning of the work comes so sporadically and unreliably that I'd have to wonder at my sanity in the chase.

I don't pretend to have any answers. All I do have, at this point, is a drive to actively question what the process means to me and then to pursue than meaning with vigor.

So my question for you is Why Do You Write?

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