Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Difference with Writing

Writing has been my biggest passion since I was quite young, and while I have developed new interests over the years, writing has remained the strongest. It's funny because I am best known ~*~on the internet~*~ for my photography and my web and graphic design, and it would seem that writing has sort of been simmering on the back-burner, and in fact many people don't even know I love to write. But I would actually give up every single one of my other interests (of which there are many) in order to keep writing.

This doesn't seem like a very remarkable thing to post about, and naturally if I have a blog then it can be assumed I like to write. But what's funniest about the whole thing with writing is that it is one of the things about which I am the quietest. I don't like posting my writing online very much, and I don't like saying "I'm a writer," and yet it is my biggest interest. My strongest passion.

But it raises the question, what about other forms of art, like my photography? I share pretty much every photo I take; I have a Flickr; my website has my whole photography portfolio; I have a Facebook page for my photography. I'm not very restricted with sharing my photos. So why isn't it the same thing with sharing writing? And why is it easier for me to say "I am a photographer" than "I am a writer"?

For one, the -er suffix seems to raise the act of writing to a level of pretentiousness. I'm always afraid that if I say "I am a writer," it sounds so self-indulgent, as if I have given myself a title without justifiable reasonor rather without objective evidence. Maybe in a couple years if I hypothetically have some books published, I would feel a bit more at ease with the term "writer," but until then the word will always feel unnecessarily loaded for me, at least more so than if I call myself a photographer. I feel less mental dissonance when I use the latter, and perhaps it is because I do have a large body of photography that I have shared, whereas I have a large body of writing that I have not shared. I seem to have more support if I say I am a photographer than a writer.

But it's never that simple (especially with me), and I think the distinction between writer and photographer is a bit more deeply rooted in the very nature of the art forms themselves. Photography, which I started doing seriously about two-and-a-half years ago, involves a very different creative process. Taking a photograph means using a world that already exists, independent and irrespective of whatever ideas, visions, and processes I may impose upon it, and creating something based on that world. I don't necessarily have control of the content of a photograph. Sure, I can move objects around, change the composition, but the fact remains that the art of photography is an art acting upon a preexisting element. Lighting, coloring, contrast, etc. all give a photograph its heightened beauty, its sense of style, its originality, its distinctive lookbut the entire process essentially begins with something already there.

I suppose that makes it easier for me to share my photography, whereas with my writing, it is entirely different. Writing is the creation of something from absolutely nothing. A blank page is just thatblank. If you hold up a camera, you don't see a blank world (unless you forget to take off the lens cap). Writing is, to me, a lot more personal because each word is completely extracted from my own mind, from the repertoire of phrases and thoughts and ideas that are my very own and that live abstractly within the confines of my own consciousness, and even my unconsciousness. Photography is the manipulation of the world, whereas writing is the construction of it. It is for that reason that I have established a connection with writing that is more intimate than with other forms of artistic expression, which is why it feels vaguely strange to talk about my writing or broadcast it. Not because it is weird to share writing, but because sharing means exposure, and exposure creates vulnerability. I feel vulnerable and exposed if I lay out my writing for eyes other than my own, because each word has come from myself, and thus pages of my writing are like pages of myself, sprawled out, open to subjective scrutiny and poking around (for some reason my mind is fixated on the image of a cadaver, which is a rather morbid comparison). It's as if I cut off a limb and left it out for all the world to see. It is a part of meor at the very least, it was at one pointbut now it is on its own and while it is linked to me, it is no longer just mine. It exists concretely outside of my mind from where it originally sprung. It can be examined, it can be commented on, it can be seen for all its deficiencies which then hark back to me and reflect my own deficiencies. It must fend for itself and support itself, all the while mirroring my own abilities.

I think that's the inherent fear that comes with me calling myself a writer. The term automatically establishes the idea that a person with such a title must have something substantial, some kind of literary creation, that necessitates such a title, and it almost raises the level of scrutiny that one can expect. If I say "I like to write," then a short story I've written is just the byproduct of a hobby and can thus be taken lightly. If I say "I am a writer," then that same story is observed with sharper literary goggles, with a magnifying class or a microscope even, picked apart word by word, each letter weighed for its value and quality.

But I thinkand quite dearly hopethat one day I will be comfortable with the term "writer," especially since I want to devote my whole life to writing. More importantly though, I hope that one day I will be comfortable enough to feel I have something to share. A poem here and there is the most I have shared, but perhaps one day I can reach that distant, diaphanous goal of publication. Not for publication's sake, of course, because I only write for the sake of writing itself. But it is a dream nonethelessalthough I will first have to get over this whole difficulty-with-sharing complex that I seem to possess.

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