This evening, I took my daughter and a number of her friends to see the remake of Fame, and during the movie something crystalized that's been nagging at me for quite some time: writing is the only art that occurs almost entirely internally. When a musician picks up a guitar or sits down at a keyboard to practice or to compose, for instance, that experience is to some degree shared with anyone in the vicinity. Notes and chords, ready or not, reach nearby ears--even if the musician is unaware.
Visual arts are quieter, of course, but anyone who walks past a painter or sculptor at work catches at least a sense of the creation, can see what kind of work is in progress, what colors dominate, what feeling the piece conveys. Writing alone is different, isolated, hidden during its creation. Certainly someone could peek over the writer's shoulder as he scribbled on his pad or tapped away at his keyboard, but it would take effort, very close proximity, focus on the work before him. Nothing meaningful is, or could be, communicated at a glance, across a room, through a closed door. The writer's art exists in his mind alone until the moment someone turns to his work with the sole purpose of reading or hearing his words.
How does this change the process, I wonder, the fact that a musician creates out loud, that an artist's work is readily visible while it is in progress, but that a writer's product can only be absorbed with effort?