Hey Creative Friend,
Today, I want us to talk about a topic you probably don’t want to talk about. If you’re anything like how I used to be, it’s probably one of those things that’s difficult for you to do. But hey, we’ve got to talk about it because that’s what friends do – we talk about the good, not so good, and everything in between. So, let’s discuss some writing tips for visual artists. Shall we?
I know that for many makers, visual artists, and creative people, writing is not always the easiest thing for you to do. You’re a maker, or a visual artist. You’re not creative in that way. I get it. We’re all creative but in different ways. So, when we’re expected to use certain skills – like writing – which is not quite our strongest suit, that can become challenging.
It’s like the way some artists feel about marketing their art. They’re like, “I’m an artist not a salesperson”. The same sentiment is often expressed when artists are confronted with writing. You hear, “I’m an artist, not a writer”.
I understand where that sentiment comes from. I too used to dread writing.
However, it doesn’t stop us artists from being called upon, time and time again to write as part of our art practice. Very often, we’re called upon to write things like an artist bio, an artist statement, or an artist resume. Sometimes we’re asked to contribute articles or art tutorials for certain publications. Yes. Yes. And yes!!! Writing can become a common theme in your art practice.
The two latter types of writing are usually not as scary as the first three. Well, because we love our art, we live it and breath it. So, it’s easier to talk about it and show people how to do it.
On the other hand, the first three types sound kind of official, though. And anything official, you know, can be kind of intimidating as well. So there’s that. Then, if writing is not a muscle you exercise often, that can also make you feel uneasy.
Before we go on, let me explain what the first three documents are so that we’re all on the same page about what they are. An artist bio is simply saying- tell us about yourself. The artist statement says, tell us about your art, and the artist resume is saying list your accomplishments. That’s it. Okay, I know. That’s not it. Well, let’s just say, those are great working definitions to start with.
Understanding what you’re supposed to write is simply the first step. Although it’s an important step, it still doesn’t automatically make the writing get done. So, how do you learn to write as a visual artist? I alluded to it earlier. Writing is a muscle that you exercise.
So, how do you practice writing? The answer is – by writing.
Writing Tips for Visual Artists
Of course, if you’re in a pinch, you’re working with a deadline to get some writing out of the gate, then go look at some writing samples, get someone to help you, and just get it out of the gate before your deadline. Having used that approach before, I know that it’s not the easiest thing to do. The experience can be stressful and can leave a bad taste in your mouth which perpetuates the negative feelings you’ll have towards writing.
1. Take the long view approach.
The better way to do it, is to take the long view approach. The thing is, as a visual artist, some form of writing will always be a part of your life. So, why don’t you rather commit yourself to learning to do some amount of writing? The way to make the writing process palatable for yourself is this. Be ready before you need to be ready. Practice and then practice again.
2. Writing for Visual Artists: Journaling
My secret to practicing how to write is doing it in a non-pressure way – by writing for yourself. When you start by writing for publications or when you write something that will be read by someone else, it always comes with some amount of pressure. Will they like it? Maybe I should have, or could have done it this way or that way.
I find journaling to be the easiest way to practice writing without pressure. It’s a form of writing that’s not intended for an audience. However, doing it consistently trains you to simply write. Then after a while, you find that you’re learning to express yourself better, and before you know it, although writing may never be your thing, it won’t be such a dreadful thing anymore.
For fiber artists, the most common form of writing we’re called upon to do is to submit artist statements when entering our works in group shows. I find that journaling helps tremendously with artist statements. Artist statements call on you to do the kind of reflection on your art, your inspirations, and influences that aligns so well with journal writing.
3. Writing for Visual Artists: Blogging
If you’re interested in a more public way of practicing to write, then blogging is another great way to build your writing muscle. The more I blogged about my art, the better I understood why I created them. The better I understood why I create, the better I’m able to articulate myself. But it all started with writing for myself first – by journaling.
4. Get Writing Help
Since we’re on the subject of public ways to practice writing, let me add that you can also look into writing workshops. Lots of public libraries have those kind of free resources available to you. So, look into it. Along the same lines, you can also look into paid writing workshops. If you have a favorite author or writer, chances are, they have a writing workshop that you can take to learn how to write better.
5. Join a Challenge
Finally, another suggestion for learning to write is to take part in a writing challenge. If you’re not a self-starter or you’ve tried writing on your own and were not successful, then try a challenge. The good thing about a challenge is that other people are doing it with you. That gives you a certain level of accountability and motivation to keep you going to the end of the challenge.
Question: What has your experience with writing for your art been? Do you dread it? Have you found ways to deal with it?