Artist vs. Maker

I first heard this distinction made when I was listening to Krista Tippet’s Becoming Wise.

Of course, I don’t remember, now, how she was categorizing Artist and Maker (because crappy notes), but I know it caught my attention then, and even now I think, ah yes!

There is a resonance there. A sort of this-makes-sense fit, without my really knowing why.

And of course, what do I do whenever I don’t quite know something? Write, of course!

So heck, if I’m trying to unravel something, you might as well come along for the ride.

For a while there, at the very beginning of my writing life, poetry was my medium of choice. I used it to think, to rage, to capture, to pin down, to make visible, to magic, to any number of things. Poetry was my best friend. The one who patiently (and absent-mindedly) files her nails on your unmade bed, (half)-listening as you pace up and down your bedroom floor in a fury of creative energy, ready to receive everything. Everything.

That was poetry. The cup, the flower bed, the ocean.

But I was no poet. This much I knew.

And people railed. Of course, you’re a poet! Stop being so modest, so humble, so self-deprecating, so . . . well, . . . fake.

But I didn’t stop.

I knew I wasn’t a poet.

Not any more than I’m an Artist.

I don’t have words floating around in my head when I go to bed and again when I rise.

I don’t

I don’t create.

I make.

And even then, the making is just the means.

Whether it’s poetry or this blog, I write as a way of getting some place else–out of this hell hole . . . into my body . . . towards consciousness–anywhere but here.

So to call myself an “Artist” is, well, ridiculous.

But I am a Maker.

I can relate to that.

I have made a life, a family, a career, good friends, poetry, blog posts. I’ve made them all–carefully and deliberately. They have been a labor of love, not beauty.

And so it is with my writing.

I come to the page for very practical reasons–to make something, something that feeds me, something that feeds me in the making.

Which is not to say that Artists are not also fed by what they create–I’m sure they are–but it seems to me that their compulsion is different from my own.

And since I am not an Artist, I cannot tell you what that compulsion is. Just that it is not mine.

As antimatter is not matter.

Maker, not Artist.



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Categories: Reflections

4 replies

  1. Interesting distinction. Because I believe everyone is creative I think everyone has the capacity to be a maker in some way. Maybe Artist has to do with medium. Maybe it has to do with sight, or beauty. I’m not sure. But I feel that my compulsion as an artist is to create something from another world. In most capacities I am a maker, building organizations, creating events, etc. That to me is Making. I feel I am an artist when I am channeling something from beyond, and it is my duty to open the gates.

    • Exactly! And even when you are “making,” you (because I know you) are still an artist because that is the space and spirit you live in–one of creation and imagination and magic.

  2. A maker? Well, that’s an interesting perspective. So the act of making a poem doesn’t make you a poet or writing a story doesn’t make you a writer?

    • It doesn’t make me a poet or an author (although I do consider myself a writer just as I consider myself a cook, but not a chef). When I write, it does not come from the same place as say when I mother or when I teach–it is not who I am. I write to get to some other place. I’m saying this clumsily. Don’t have the right words.

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