This line from a Jewel song is playing over and over in my head, and it’s got me thinking about how when I allowed myself to say “I am an artist,” I started seeing myself from another angle.
When you look at me, you probably wouldn’t see an artist. I’m not the starving artist, sitting in rags on a New York City sidewalk and scratching in a sketchbook all day. I’m not the bright up-and-coming star artist who is nervously showing in a gallery for the first time. I’m not the famous in her own time artist whose works are selling at art auctions around the world, and I’m certainly not the posthumously famous artist. I’m not dead yet.
When you think of an artist you probably think of someone who creates something visual. Since I was a little girl, I have secretly wanted to be an Artist-with-a-capital-A — by which I meant a person who makes a living creating art, such as painting. But as much as I enjoy creating tactile things, I feel much more in my element when I am writing. Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.” It’s so true. Writers know that changing one word can change the meaning of a whole piece. And I love laboring over a piece of writing, whether it is a poem, a novel, or a blog post, and working on it until it appears to have come out effortlessly, as if I were channeling an otherworldly being.
I love writing tools. The stationery aisle at Staples makes me weak in the knees. I enjoy testing out different pens to see how they write. I love the possibilities of a blank sheet of paper, even better if it’s lined. I love that a Word document can go on and on and on, as long as I keep typing. I love taking part in NaNoWriMo, even if I have yet to revise anything to the point that it can be published. I will get there some day, I am certain. Because though I am not published, I am a writer.
And I am an artist. I paint pictures with words, using a pen or keyboard as my brush. I know why it’s better to say, “She stomped her foot and pouted,” rather than, “She was so mad.” I know that when your high school teacher says that it’s raining in the story to underscore the sad tone, it’s NOT just coincidence, despite your insistence that “the author didn’t mean that, it just happened that way” (yes, he did; and no, it didn’t). I love that I can hide clues in the text that foreshadow something, but you don’t realize that they are clues until you’ve finished and have to reread the book or story to understand it in a new light. I know the power of a well placed comma or ellipsis…
I AM AN ARTIST and that makes me happy. Because after all… isn’t that what I’ve always wanted to be?
(…and I know that it’s called an ellipsis and not “dot dot dot.”)