NOTE: As part of an occasional “Writers on Writing” series I will be featuring occasional guest bloggers. Kicking off this effort is this piece by novelist Bill Woods. — Terra
A few days ago, a Facebook friend sent me Van Gogh’s Starry Night, a surreal picture a 3rd grader might idly do with crayon. And yet it creates pure emotion in me. Neither I, nor intellectual art critics, can explain how an artist captures emotion on canvas—or how my brain a century later can extract that same emotion. I doubt Van Gogh had a clue either. The process seems to be: ‘Emotion > canvas > emotion,’ no thought required. Thought might egotistically claim credit for art, but it is not in the equation.
So art then is not the colored pigments, or even the abstract images; but an intangible essence perceived only by the subconscious. Conscious thought is left to marvel and wonder at what it cannot comprehend.
Last night I read one of Hemingway’s early short stories, In Michigan. It was 4-5 pages, simple, straightforward, simple characters, 3rd grade reading level. I tried to dismiss it as what it first appeared, a writer’s early experiment, of no value. But today, for some reason, I can’t get the story out of my head. It’s like there was some subliminal message that haunts me. That is it exactly, I think. As my conscious brain read, processed the words into images and actions, my subconscious connected on a different level to some coded emotion
Back to Hemingway: did I experience art in his simple story? Like with Starry Night, is it art if it evokes emotion? I think the parallel is there. If so, it is heartening that language, like painting and music, can be a medium for art. Not that I have ever achieved art, but my effort to do so provides a more noble excuse to justify how I spend my life.
Probably a thousand books were published just today. Maybe 1% will be commercially successful. Writers know this, and yet they keep writing. Why? I believe they are driven by an instinctual need to create art, the tip of Maslow’s triangle.
Bill Woods lives and writes beside the Duck River in Columbia, Tennessee, but considers Grande Case, St Martin FWI his second home. In addition to Orient Beach, Bill is the author of The Muse of Wallace Rose: Novella and Short Stories. He may be reached at OrientBeachBook@gmail.com or on Facebook at Bill Woods Author.