Spencer Tracy, a famous actor, once asked the soon-to-be-famous, Burt Reynolds, “Are you an actor?”
To which Reynolds replied, “The jury is still out on that.”
“Well,” said Tracy, “Don’t let them catch you acting.”
Something similar to this is involved in any great art. Of course, people marvel at the artist’s ability, but what’s most impactful is what their art conveys. How it makes us feel. How it changes us.
Likewise, the best writing goes unnoticed because it is concealed by great ideas.
It’s the bad writing that gets noticed. It interrupts and forces the reader to fill in gaps. It starts and stops sporadically, leaving the reader stranded without clarity. It’s tiresome. It’s too much work.
The reader doesn’t care how hard the writer worked, or how long it took. They only want to feel different.
The best writing focuses the reader on the content, not the creator. Read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and you’ll feel like you know the night streets of St. Petersburg, Russia.
Read David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell and you’ll understand the desirability of difficulty in a way you couldn’t have imagined.
No great literary work begins with the author describing how hard it was to find the right words. That’s a personal problem.
The family doesn’t want to hear about the labor pains. They just want to see the baby.
The audience doesn’t know the private hell the artist endures. The art is to help the audience forget their own private hell for a moment.