Writing: Craft, Skill, or Art?
Writing is one of the hardest things I've ever done.
It's not because it's particularly difficult to put one word in front of the other
- It's because writing is both an art and a craft.
Let me explain:
When you're learning a craft, it's all about skill. This is where your natural ability and talent hit the looming walls of technique, style, and form. Now, believe you me, I'm the first person to balk at all of that. If we've ever met, you know I take pleasure in thumbing my nose at craft... until I began realizing just how much good craft is the backbone to Voice. It was after I read Ursula K Leguin's Steering the Craft when I began realizing how so many author's written voices I loved were poignant by what they were saying AND by how they said it.
Good craft gets your words out on paper. Excellent craft dissolves readers into the story. Write enough, and we discover we each have a voice of our own and a Story to tell (see C.S. Lewis' Till We Have Faces, for more on this). But in order to tell our stories well, we need to commit to practicing how we tell them.
I think the first step is to realize you have your own unique learning style (and/or combination). When it comes to how we learn, a few of which most people are a mix of Verbal, Visual, or Kinesthetic - but other ways, exist, as well:
I also found how by joining a community (or two) of other dedicated and talented writers, such as
The St Louis Writers Guild, immersing myself in resources from various pros and experts in what interests me (like Lindy Beige, for example), my technical ability to write critically and accurately is steadily improving.
But then there's the Artist-Side.
Take all of the rules and regulations - all the tips, tricks, disciplines, and everything else and stow them away in a spare closet for some other time. Your writing flows out as an extension of your Living. I know your busy reading these words... but for a moment, just take a deep breath. Breathe. Relax. Quit worrying about those worries. - Adulting will always be there for you. It's you we're talking about now. The Artist-side of writing comes from how your heart is feeling. It's so easy to focus on goals and forget about what really matters (not what you think ought to matter, as content or whatever else).
One of my favorite authors of all-time, George MacDonald, once exclaimed how our rallying cry ought to be 'More Life!' - We don't wear down and die because of death, but because of lack of Life and liveliness. We need more opportunities for Living - whether it's adopting a dog from the pound or taking an impromptu drive to Canada on a whim. Man was not meant to dwell in exhaustive tedium, bound behind an office desk or behind the counter somewhere. Somewhere inside, we rebel against this notion.
What does this have to do with writing?
- It's a Zen-Master approach to not only writing better, but living better (as if the two were somehow separate and distinct). By living fuller, we write out of strength and joy - passion.
"There is nothing to writing," Hemmingway once penned, "all you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed." - Echoing the spirit of that immortal film, The Dead Poets Society:
"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?" Answer. That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?"
We write because it spills from our souls. We see the world, thus - or are given this glimmering image of what could be, in some far-away place - and then set pen to paper to make it be.
Write because it's what you do.
When I was little, I played with Legos. Each day after school, I would go home and up into my room and build and build. I'd build castles and shipwrecks - spaceships and great feats of engineering (I thought, anyways). I'd chow down on a bowl of cereal, have the radio or tv on in the background, just enough to occupy my higher brain-functions, and build stories. To this very day, I'm still hunting for the right stories - the once which bubbled out of my imagination, through my fingers, and up into brick-built worlds around me. And while my collection is now stored away in my basement, awaiting a new child to one day discover its marvelous secrets, one thing is certain: I'm still telling stories.
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