Get Behind the Mule

One of my favorite songwriters and artists is no doubt Tom Waits. He’s witty, dark, and can write one hell of a melody. No doubt, his lyrics are sometimes cryptic, often with numerous meanings, but the guy really knows how to deliver a catchy tune. Get Behind the Mule, is a song from his “Mule Variations” album that has really stuck with me throughout my writing career. While the entire song is a bit grim, his chorus is something that always stirs in my head whenever I’m having trouble motivating myself to write for the day.

 “Got to get behind the mule-

In the morning and plow.”

 The line repeats itself several times throughout the song, delivering a haunting, but sensible message. Sometimes, you just have to pull your sleeves up and get the job done even if it’s the last thing you want to do. It’s easier said than done I know, but nonetheless, valid. If you’ve entered the book writing world hoping for an easy publishing process with minimal complications and easy, no mess acceptance, you’re probably not being realistic. Publishers are extremely particular, and will ferociously pick apart your manuscript to the last word. That’s because they have to be in order to do their job.

 The trials are exhausting and a bit demoralizing, but you can’t let them break your formula. Read and write every day, send out your manuscript, and continue to stay focused. These are the steps that will eventually get you published. A lot of times we forget this because we don’t want to admit that it’s tougher than we’d thought. It’s okay. Long waits, rejection letters, and criticisms are part of the game. Don’t let it stop you from being productive. Got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow

 

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Are Writers Artists?

What comes to your head when you hear the word artist? For the majority of people, it’s usually Picasso attacking a canvas or Bob Dylan playing his guitar. Very rarely does someone imagine Mark Twain or Agatha Christie in front of a typewriter, regardless of the fact that they are the most prolific authors of all time.  So, why aren’t writers typically considered artists? Does one have to cater to the five senses in order to be one, or is it the emotion one stirs from their work that makes them what they are? Well, as usual, the answer isn’t simple, but requires exploration nonetheless.

Type “what is an artist?” into your web browser and see what comes up. I did, and the first definition I came across was, “An artist is a person who creates paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.” Wow, it doesn’t get any simpler than that. Other definitions include, “A person who is skilled at drawing or painting,” as well as, “a skilled performer.” So, according to Webster and his friends, a writer is definitely out of luck.

As I continued to search, I found blogs and comments that support the idea that writers just are not artists. Certain opinions genuinely believe that authors, as talented as they might be, don’t fit the mold of what an orthodox artist should be. From these people’s perspectives, artists receive their title because they have a medium that is either visually or audibly pleasing. Painters create works that can be put on display. Musicians and actors perform on stage.  But a writer can’t showcase their work so easily, which to these folks, separates writers from artists. Writers tend to need time, organization, and systematical knowledge in order to fabricate their work (although there are certain types of poetry and short stories that are exceptions). In addition, a writer’s creation process doesn’t tend to be as intense or swift as other types of art. There’s no splashing of acrylics along a white wall or singing until your voice goes hoarse.

Yet, as I began to explore more online opinions, it became apparent that while some individuals feel that writers aren’t technically part of the art community, the majority of people argue that writers are in fact major players. While famous authors have always been celebrated, it’s only within the last few decades or so that a new principle for identifying an artist has developed- A principle that is paving the way for authors and poets everywhere. It’s an idea that recognizes true art for what it really is at its foundation. In the words of Albert Einstein, “True art is characterized by an irresistible urge in the creative artist.”

Supporters of this well accepted viewpoint feel that writing is not only a part of the art world, but one of the most complex forms of expression that there is. A writer is painting with words instead of color. They evoke emotion with their stories and accounts. They create something out of nothing, taking ordinary events and weaving them into written words that induce a mood or feelings. While a fine portrait or song can arouse happiness, anger or grief, an exceptional column or book can change lives.

Another reason why writers are increasingly being recognized as artists is that the urge that drives them to express themselves is parallel to the urge that any other artists feels. The fervor that compels a writer to convey a story through language is the same enthusiasm that a violinist uses when drawing their bow or a sculptor uses when he or she shapes clay. Most importantly, this new outlooks doesn’t just apply to writers. According to the majority of blogs and articles I read, other contemporary forms such as photography, computer graphics, film making, and fashion are just as vital, and long overdue for recognition they deserve. So long as there is passion, creation, and expression, there is art, plain and simple.

So the next time someone asks, “Who is your favorite artist?” try to resist the urge to answer with Monet or Pavarotti. Instead, try naming someone a little less conventional.  While Chuck Palahniuk, Carlos Baena, and Robert Kirkman may not make the traditional list of artists, they live and breathe the same creativity of Andy Warhol and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Just because specific individuals that sculpt statues, dance in ballets or sing in operas get all the credit, it doesn’t mean that they’re the only artists out there. It’s up to us to recognize artists everywhere, be they stand-up comedians, cameramen, or writers.