Sorry friends, this isn’t a story about something my husband, Art, has been up to.
A teenage girl was given a homework assignment to interview artists with a specific list of questions. Her teacher said to choose a ‘traditional’ artist, and then someone who others might not think of as an artist. She called me today and asked me if she could interview me, as she thinks writers are artists. Well, of course I said yes, and was very flattered.
Let me tell you, she asked some hard questions. Like, ‘what is art’, and ‘is art vital to society’. But oddly, the one that stumped me and had me floundering for a few moments was this: ‘how do you make art’.
From the writing standpoint this could almost be a variation on the cliché question of ‘where do your ideas come from’. But it’s not. Or at least, it wasn’t to me. At first I said that I don’t ‘make’ art, that it’s more like stories come from somewhere ‘out there’ and flow through the writer. Which sounded too out there for the conversation.
Then I realized that what hung me up on the question was the word ‘make’. Is anyone surprised that a writer would get hung up on a single word? Well, what made that word difficult for me was that it implied ownership. That I had some sort of right to art, or control over it. Yes, of course, the artist has a measure of control over their work. But stories don’t belong to me. Which is why we write, to share them, to free them, to let others hear them. (And I sure can’t make them do what I want…)
So in that sense, I don’t think you can make art.
She also asked me what I got from art. That was an easy one to answer. Freedom. Complete, total freedom. To create any world I want to be in, to create people I want to spend time with, or even create people who scare me. To change a story with an ending that didn’t give me what I wanted, or to create an ending where none existed. To answer questions and ask questions.
A final question was if one medium of art impacted another. That one, too, was easy. Music has always impacted my writing and always will.
But I keep going back to that one question. How do you make art?
How do you answer that?