Thoughts on Art and Writing

So I’m not feeling well, and I’m ahead on a lot of my school projects, so here goes. I’ve done posts like this, but not one that is going to be quite as in-depth as this one.

The question is… why do I write?

I think my goal is, at the surface, something similar to that of most people: my own entertainment. I write for myself. I write because there are things I would like to read, and nobody knows what I would like to read better than I do. And so I ask myself questions. Is there more focus on plot than intensively realistic characters in what I’m reading? Then I write stories with relatable and realistic characters. Are there too much “teenager saves the world” kinds of storylines? Then I write one without as much at stake. Is there not enough POC representation in the books I’m reading? Then I write one that has lots of it. Is there too much concentration on merely entertaining the reader and not enough on making them think about their own life and society? Then I write something that makes the reader think.

And that’s where I have to go a bit past the surface. I think if I get to the heart of why I write, it gets slightly egotistical. I like to think that I can truly change people’s minds. Seriously, I do. I act like I can make society think about itself and its wrongs if I write it as it is, showing all the faults in grisly detail. Maybe I can. I don’t really know. I like to believe I can make people walk back into reality and think about what would happen if they kept living their lives as mundanely as they do. I’d like them to question everything. And most of all, I’d like to imagine that I, a short, scrawny dude from Upstate New York who’s never done anything of consequence, can change people’s minds with a some words on a page.

That’s why I chose my pen name as it is. I do it not as a lie, but only because I like to write as politically incorrect as possible, and I don’t feel like people tracking me down on Facebook to give me hate mail.  So, the name Gabriel Penn was concocted, because Gabriel is a both messenger and warrior angel according to the Bible. I would like to be that: a warrior for what is good and a messenger to those doing wrong. And I’d like to do it all with pen and ink, per se.

I think it all comes down to what a writer, or any kind of artist, is meant to do. Writing surely must entertain, or nobody would read it. But aren’t we called to do more as artists? Are our works not supposed to change society, or at least represent it as it is? And maybe we can do the former by doing the latter, who knows? I’d like to think we could. So entertain your audience. Write epic fight scenes. Paint beautiful lacework or pure abstraction. Write tales of dragons or aliens or 19th-century romance. Construct sculptures that take twenty minutes for people to realize what it’s supposed to look like. Write stories of vampires, ghosts, ghouls and demons. Draw original, goofy characters or hyperrealistic celebrities. Write about everyday life, for all I care. But to end it there, that would be a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Do more! Be more!

We bear a massive burden as artists. When you make art, the audience hangs on your every word. When you make art, both poor and rich, both commoner and royal, are all equal. So whatever you’re going to say, make it count.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Art and Writing

  1. I wish the testing folk would understand this instead of limiting my students’ choices to: entertain, persuade, inform. Because frankly, persuading and informing just aren’t strong enough, and making entertain stand alone as a frivolity misses the mark – it is the power to do it all – and to change lives – that makes a writer have purpose. I applaud you Gabriel Penn – write purposefully and forge ahead.

    Liked by 2 people

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