A lot of people seem to think it’s one of the latter, but I don’t think of it either way. I can’t imagine an artist of my age living at least 50 years without writing a book. That’s a talent, and I think it’s quite difficult, but you can be a very good writer without being an artist. Of course, I’m aware of this and have talked about it often, but it’s something that still surprises me — how many of us actually do feel this way; that’s always been my biggest worry — that we’re just “suppository writers” whose sole intention is to become great at what we do. I really just want my readers to be able to know about art as an actual art.
The fact that my life was changed by writing seems especially striking given your own upbringing at a time when so many readers think of art as something exclusively self-serving and derivative.
People seem to think it’s a talent. But art is a skill. It’s not a person’s natural ability to paint or draw, it comes from the years of experience that you have in doing it, the experience of how to craft. Art is, at its source, skill. And it’s like a person’s ability to understand that it’s their job to craft. If, on the other hand, people think of it as a talent, it’s a lack of understanding of craft — of how to do it. Even a person who makes a living doing it, does not have the time to just sit down and do it as a hobby. If you say you’re a musician, it’s the same thing.
What are the kinds of things you do that make you a master writer?
Most things that I have published are things that require a particular sort of attention, which requires a certain knowledge of technique and how to craft, or are very technical — that sort of thing; the most interesting sort of thing that you can write about. That’s always been my favorite kind of thing. But more recently, I’ve been doing things that are much more accessible and much more easy to read, where I don’t go through a certain mental process to become able to make those notes. I just write a text, or I write in a particular style, and that just kind of happens. It’s not something that takes years to learn to do, unless it’s a particularly demanding subject that I’m trying to master, like literature.
Have any of your ideas changed in
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