The Opposite of Art

Or, Musings from Kris on a Wednesday Night, While Waiting to Fall Asleep (Then Written on Thursday Evening) :

I don’t believe in Writer’s Block. I truly don’t. I think there are times when ideas are scarce, and words are harder to put together in a decent way. But you can still write. You can describe your backyard, or make up a scene between Billy Bob Thornton and your pet hamster, Shenanigans. What you write may suck–it may be completely unintelligible–but hey, you were still able to write something down.

So, no, I don’t believe in Writer’s Block.

However, I would say that depression is as close as you can get to Writer’s Block. Not, “I’m feeling a wee bit glum today,” but “All I want to do during the day is sleep and I hope time passes quicker, but I dread the night because then my mood really plummets.” It’s not sadness; it’s tearfulness, hopelessness, and apathy.

You can still write during those times. And I think, often, the desire to write remains. You miss your character/story/setting and might even know where the story’s going next. You have a desire to write, but not the drive. Because apathy has completely overwhelmed you.

What is the opposite of art? To me, it’s apathy. All art forms are about connection–with your characters, with the notes, with your readers, with the world around you. And the best art make us feel things. Preferably, all the things.

So if Art = Feeling All the Things

and Apathy = Feeling None of the Things

Then Art ¥ Apathy I mean, Apathy is the Opposite of Art.

(The ¥ kinda looks like the not-equals sign. At least, to me … I was going for a play on the transitive property, or something like that. Math, anybody?)

I continue to struggle to put enough emotion into my writing. I always get there, but it usually takes a few re-writes. I’m not sure why, but that kind of emotion scares me. (Okay, I do know why, but I won’t bore you (anymore) with the reason.)  When I write something, anything, even a sentence, with enough emotion in it, I consider that art. Before that, it’s something less.

I’ll always strive to turn my writing from words into art. And I believe emotion is the biggest factor of success.

What about you? What aspects of writing, in your opinion, have the power to turn words into art? What do you consider to be the opposite of art?

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I write speculative fiction inspired by mythos from around the world, complex family dynamics, and my own experiences living with mental illness. After earning my BA in Linguistics from Brigham Young University in 2008, I received my MFA in Creative Writing from Converse College in 2012. I live in Denver, where my husband and I spend countless hours chasing our three young sons (and sometimes catching them!). I collect tarot decks, dye my hair mermaid colors, and procrastinate by decorating my home. My debut novel, Feathers Sharp as Knives, releases on May 2, 2023.

4 thoughts on “The Opposite of Art

  1. Your line about apathy reminds me of the phrase ‘the opposite of love is not hate but indifference’.

    I’ve struggled with mild depression several times and I can certainly say for me it is the quickest way to kill my writing. And it’s only worse because then I felt all the more guilty for not writing at all . That sort of apathy scares me and it can be crippling to creative work. But I can say at the same time, that kicking my butt into gear and actually writing is what has pulled me out of it both times–being productive and getting stuff done and putting words to the page.

    I don’t know if I set out to write art, per say, but I do hope that I can spin a story that draws people in and makes them turn the pages. And you certainly need emotion as part of the recipe for that to happen.

    1. Your line about apathy reminds me of the phrase ‘the opposite of love is not hate but indifference’.

      I’ve heard that before too, and I wonder if it (subconsciously) influenced my revelation last night. Drat! Here I was thinking I’m original. (Always happens to me. ~_^)

      Depression sucks, that’s for sure. And you’re absolutely right–being productive is one of the best cures.

    2. I’ve struggled with mild depression too, but in my case, it made me feel all the negative things rather than being apathetic, and that’s what killed my writing. Fear and worry over it not being good enough made me not want to try, stress from too many other things going on making my brain function poorly, and then guilt over not making myself write anyway (or do anything productive) compounded it. It was less apathy and more fear, because somewhere deep down I wanted to write but just felt unable. So I suppose for me, art = feeling all the beautiful things (which can apply even when writing something that’s not particularly happy!) and the opposite of art = wallowing in all the ugly things.

      But I agree that eventually making myself productive did help pull me out of the funk, although in my situation I had to heal a little bit before I could rouse the courage to do that.

      So I guess I do believe in Writer’s Block, but think it is usually self-inflicted by our negative emotions, not an outside thing we can blame. And I think if we can make ourselves want to make something beautiful, we can overcome it.

  2. I think part of turning words into art is deliberate preciseness. It goes hand-in-hand with emotion, because you’re finding the exact right words to express what you want to express. That, to me, is artistic.

    And I’ve always thought that the opposite of art was necessity, but that’s really not right. Necessary things can be artsy, for sure. I like apathy better, lol.

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