Visual artists, did you hear that? Those words encapsulate the purpose of writing about your work.
Women’s History Month reminds me how important it is to listen to women of courage and intelligence. Learning about the actions of women I admire is a tonic, an antidote really, to the poisons of force-fed witless popular culture. When women of distinction have advice, I listen.
Author Toni Morrison, whose talent and productivity is nothing short of heroic, is interviewed by Rebecca Gross in this month’s NEA Arts Magazine. In “Write, Erase, Do It Over”, Morrison’s words not only give me heart, but the interview contains some gems for visual artists who struggle to write about their work.
Artists beat themselves up over the process of writing an artist statement, and they often defeat themselves. Here’s how Morrison has learned to look failure in the eye.
“As a writer, a failure is just information. It’s something that I’ve done wrong in writing, or is inaccurate or unclear. I recognize failure—which is important; some people don’t—and fix it, because it is data, it is information, knowledge of what does not work. That’s rewriting and editing.”
Toni Morrison describes her self-editing process:
“I usually write sections by hand and then put them on the computer, print them out, and then go over them to see what’s not there or what’s there that is just clogging it up. You become adept at that.”
Learning to identify what’s “clogging it up” takes practice, years of practice. If you are not a writer, ask an intelligent reader or editor to help you with your professional statement. And finally, this is how Morrison impresses herself:
“Some writers whom I admire say everything. I have been more impressed with myself when I can say more with less instead of overdoing it, and making sure the reader knows every little detail. I’d like to rely more heavily on the reader’s own emotions and intelligence.”
Read the full article here.