The Art of Miscommunication

It’s amazing to me that we ever manage to communicate with one another at all.

A couple of days ago, I talked to my artist sister about the purpose of art and writing and what it means in this winner-take-all world. I mentioned that if you’re not one of the people who by chance happen to be discovered and so have a large audience and hence enough money or validation to continue working on your art, it seems that you have to do it for yourself. My sister said, “You think I do art for myself?” The conversation continued without my following through on her remark, but it stuck with me, so the next day I texted her:

If you don’t d531da618f5363c22_mo art for yourself, who/what do you do it for?

She responded: Absolutely. It’s just that we get confused and try to fit art into rigid and societal structures. Art needs to be free. Otherwise it’s not art, not alive.

Me: So you do it for the art?

She: Because it needs to be done and some are called to do it. It’s not my art or yours. Just art. Creative energy manifest. We need art and artists. It’s actually what makes us divine.

Me: Your first response was beautiful, but it didn’t answer my question. What question were you answering?

By then we were both confused, so we talked on the phone. She said she answered my question. I looked at my first text again and again until it finally hit me. What I thought was a direct and simple question had struck her as a statement or a rhetorical question meaning that if we don’t do art for ourselves, there’s no one else to do it for.

Even more than the strange miscommunication, what interested me about the exchange is that I have recently come to the same conclusion. Writing is art, divine, eternal, a way of participation in creation. Selling books is commerce, mundane, a thing of the world.

We need artists, whether painters, sculptors, dancers, or writers even if no one but the artist sees the work. It adds to the total creative energy and happiness of the world, makes us better persons and, as my sister pointed out when we talked on the phone, if you are doing art, you are not out committing crimes or being inhuman to other humans.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

4 Responses to “The Art of Miscommunication”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    While I’m not in agreement on the divine part, I agree that there’s no reason to do art if you don’t at least do it for yourself.

    • Kathy Says:

      Julia Cameron of “The Artist’s Way” calls it something like “Creating with the Great Artist” – I love that! But you are so right about miscommunication and much of it happens online – I’m trying to be very deliberate about where I participate.

  2. mickeyhoffman Says:

    Not sure I agree. I don’t think any artists really wants no one to see what they do. We do it because we “can” but I think most prefer someone to see what they have done. Much of art is about communication and that requires an audience.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Artists and writers would like to be seen/read, even make a living, but in this seemingly winner-take-all world, very few get much of an audience, so to continue writing or doing art, there needs to be another reason. Or at least an ideology to keep undiscovered writers and artists from feeling as if they are wasting their time.

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