Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Guest Post by Debra Johnson

Art With Books 

by Debra Johnson

You know what? I was going to write about all the art that people physically do with books. You know what I am talking about. Those cool sculptures created with bound together used books, or the photographs of falling books, or even the entire rooms built with books. While those are very cool and worth talking about, I have changed my mind.

You see, when I think about art and books I do not think of impressionist and modern artwork. I do not think of book roses or book butterflies. I think of the words on those pages: the words that represent hours and hours and even years and years of an author’s hopes, dreams and efforts to produce. You know, there are so many readers out there today that forget that real people, just like them, write books. We are not fabulous figures from the past like Mark Twain or William Shakespeare. We are not rich or famous or even super talented. What we are, us authors, is real people with real things they need to share.

The only thing that differentiates us from your average Joe is that instead of talking about things or singing about things or drinking about things, we write about things. Those written words are a reflection of our own souls; our fears and desires and experiences. Those books you casually walk by, priced and printed and ignored, are parts of real people displayed for public view. When you think about it that way, writers are actually extremely brave.

The thing I love about books is how much of the author you can see shining through. It is kind of like acting. How much is the character and how much is the actor playing the character? Like with some actors, some writers have a unique voice that comes through no matter what they write. That unique voice helps them to have a following of readers that either love their work or despise it, no in between. 

However, some writers seem to actually become the characters. Their voice is so well hidden that you can read two separate books of theirs and never realize it is written by the same person. Some authors even write characters that are from entirely different cultures, backgrounds or sexes and do such a good job with them that when you discover who the author really is you can only gape in wonder at their talent.

It does not really matter which kind of author you are though. Many of the most popular authors are ones that do not have a particular talent but instead tap into what is going on in society at the time. Those authors seem to have a finger on society’s pulse and are able to express what the average person is going through. Even if they do not write true stores, or even if they do not write realistic fiction, they can still create characters that speak to us.

Another thing that most people forget is that every movie and television show that touches your heart started out by someone writing it down. Now, I am not talking about reality television here, but authentic stories are just books put into motion. Screenwriters are no less writers than fiction, history, or fantasy writers are. They just have a different style and you can see their writing visually, which I think is often a great benefit to them.

A writer’s life can be a lonely life. No one can see the words as you write them. Even if you have people to edit your work it is not the same as say an audience clapping or a person crying at the beauty of a song. Writers very rarely get much attention, and even the best writers see only moments in the limelight before people turn to other sources of entertainment. Is it any wonder that writing is sometimes not considered an "art"? The closest we writers come to being considered artists is the poets out there, or maybe a songwriter. Other than that we are a job, and not a very profitable one. There are always exceptions, of course, but in general writers have to be okay with living solitary lives. There are not many writers who can work together to successfully create a book or story. Team writing is not something you see very often outside of text books.

What was my point? Oh, yes. I think that we writers should strive to show the world that writing is art. It is a beautiful, difficult and sometimes dangerous art. Like graffiti on the walls protesting government, writing can often be a catalyst for change. Think 1984 or Animal Farm or Huckleberry Finn. Simple stories written by normal men who changed the world. Not only that, but I think that writers are ignored in favor of more visual arts. Yes, a painting or sculpture is art, but so is a compelling story. I know that when I write I see entire worlds in my mind. If only I could wield a paint brush or computer mouse with the same clarity as I do my thoughts! I could create works of art so beautiful and realistic that you could swear you were looking at a photograph of another world. I could tell you every brick on the wall, every cloud in the sky, every animal and bit of hay, the smell of grass, the light breeze, the warmth of the sun, the chill of the fog, the clatter of horses hooves, the howling yip of a coyote, the chirping of frogs, the clatter of raindrops against the window.

Are these not arts? Wouldn’t you pay to see a movie or play a game so detailed? Wouldn't you look around in wonder at a world created so carefully that you could walk into every room and expect it to amaze you? And yet, when we read books and stories of these carefully created worlds we often take them for granted.

Writing is art. Books are art. Words are art. Writers should get just as much appreciation for their work as painters do, as photographers and sculptors, dancers and actors, graphic designers and videographers. Just because you cannot see the worlds and people we create does not mean they are not there. They are there; they are real, as real as any other work of art. Carefully preserved in a way that others can understand and picture within their own minds. And isn’t that the more difficult task? To translate something so personal to yourself into something that everyone can see. Using no colors, no shadows, no careful shaping, just word after word poured out onto the page until entire world and galaxies and races and languages exist between the printed, creased pages of a simple paperback book. Is this not art?

About the Author: This guest post is contributed by Debra Johnson, blogger and editor of Liveinnanny.com. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: - jdebra84 @ gmail.com.