Or, the grass is always greener.
I recently had the chance to sit down with an artist and chat about our respective disciplines. The very first thing he said surprised the fuck out of me.
“Sometimes I really wish I were a writer instead. I spend hours—no, days—working on a piece that people will look at for thirty seconds.”
This statement left me rather gobsmacked for a few seconds. Really? I’ve always wished for the ability to create a piece that can tell a whole story to the reader/viewer in just thirty seconds of viewing, rather than requiring a time investment of half an hour or more. What the artist saw as a weakness, I saw as a strength. Further, what I viewed as a weakness of my own medium, the artist saw as one of its best points. How odd.
So it’s had me thinking, and I do believe that the give-and-take really does even out. With writing, I understand and accept that fewer people will appreciate my work than that of an artist. I ask much more of a reader than an artist does of a viewer.
On the flip side, an artist can realistically expect a larger pool of viewers for their work. Seeing art is an easy, casual experience. I can link someone to a piece of art, and they can appreciate it with hardly any time invested. If they approve, they can do the same, and their friends can do the same, etc… The word of mouth engine can spread a piece of art far and wide.
But because of that ease of accessibility, should an artist expect that even their magnum opus would be a less impactful or less fulfilling experience than a similar piece of writing? That’s what the artist I was speaking to seemed to believe. What we’re missing, therefor, is a measurable metric of impact. In my opinion, it doesn’t exist. An individual person can say ‘I am more affected by art/writing. That medium speaks more profoundly to me as a person.’ That’s entirely valid for a person. As a whole, though, I don’t think any conclusions can be made. I think the difference is really only skin deep. Art is easily accessible, but takes more effort to tell less story. Writing demands more of its reader, but allows its author a lot more room to expand and elaborate.
That said, do I think I’ve taken the easy road by being an author? No. Yes, I can tell much more story in much smaller space, but being a skilled author is just as much knowing what not to write. An author who abuses their ability to expand by constantly info-dumping and world-building without attention to plot and timing is a pretty poor author—just like an artist who fills every available space with things with no eye towards composition is a pretty poor artist. Are there some days I regret my decision to write rather than draw? Sure. Once in a while. Once in a while I’ll reach a scene that I think could be told better without any words. A scene where just a facial expression would convey emotion better than even the most evocative prose. But then, for every one of those days, I have another day where I couldn’t imagine telling a story as in-depth or complex as I crave with art. It’d take years of invested time to draw something that takes me a month to write.
It’s a trade-off. Any time you find yourself wishing you told stories in a different fashion, remember that every medium has its drawbacks. If you’re an author looking over the fence at someone else’s art, remember that it took them months to tell even a single scene of the ‘story’. If you’re an artist reading about the fantastically complex and intricate stories that you know you’d never be able to tell with art, just remember how you can make people laugh, cry, or shout without ever uttering even a single word. In the end, it all evens out.
And the furry fandom wouldn’t be nearly as fantastic as it is today if it didn’t have both.