An Ethic for Aesthetics

The Book of the Dun Cow was first published in 1978 by the Junior Books Division of Harper & Row (as HarperCollins entitled itself in those days).  This was my first book of any significance.  It was written in a rollicking, unselfconscious enthusiasm.  Simply, I was doing on a larger scale what I had been doing all my life till then: making up stories.  Telling them.  Writing them down.

Time has passed.  With this present writing I shall have published more than forty books, which together represent most of the literary genres: novels, short stories, poetry, expository prose, drama, devotional literature, children’s books.  Through the length of such activity, an author is not likely to remain unselfconscious about his craft and his career — and I have not.

Moreover, while at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana, I have taught creative writing.

In other words, I not only do what I do, but I’ve also been required to step outside the doing in order to contemplate it with some objectivity, to talk about it, to define it, and to pass it on to others.  “It.”  This identifiable human endeavor: art.  And within the wide realm of art: writing.

The definitions resulting from these contemplations I call “working” definitions.  Art is as living and elusive as the cultures that produce and preserve it, the communities, the sacred communions; art, then, resists absolute classifications.  And the creative process itself is ultimately too personal to be reduced to something like a universal system.

“Working” definitions, I say, first because they are what works today, but tomorrow may be subject to change; and second because their value is essentially pragmatic.  It is within these definitions that I work; it is by them that I can communicate something of this work to others, to fellow artists, to aspiring writers, to readers curious about the development of the material they read.

In the next few blogs, I will offer some insights on art, and the covenants I make as a writer.  Until then. . .


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