Inevitable Craft

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that I spend very little time discussing the actual craft of writing. This may be in part because I am one of those people who have never done well learning from books or classrooms – I am very much get-my-hands-on-it learner. I am, however, a devotee of craft, but in everything I do, from writing to editing videos to grocery shopping.

Craft is the how-to of living. I was reminded of the organic nature of craft recently when I began writing music. I had at best a rudimentary knowledge of music theory, but as usual I refused to pick up a book on the subject. No matter, note-by-note I began to learn the craft of musical composition. How? By presenting myself with musical problems I couldn’t solve with the knowledge I already had. As I solved these problems, haphazardly sometimes, I learned another and another and another tidbit of craft.

No matter how we learn it, craft is the by-product of our yearning to explore and expand. Teachers of an art form can sometimes become curmudgeons of craft, separating those who know much of it from those who know little of it like the wheat from the chaff. But this is not fair. The only difference between the writer finishing her tenth book and the writer beginning his first is time, not artistic integrity.

If a beginning writer is sincere about pursuing his work, he will face the exact same challenge as the more experienced writer when he sits down to his desk: namely, how do I say something I have never said before? The tenth book should challenge the experienced writer just as much as the first book challenges the new writer.

Yes, work produced after ten books is usually more ready to share than work produced after one book, but this is besides the point. Our attention naturally focuses on the end result, but life is never an end result. Life is always the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. Discovery always begets discovery as surely as one foot follows the next. You will learn how to say whatever it is you need to say. It is inevitable. Your job is not to worry about the craft, but to seek what you most want to say, and let your craft evolve in service to it.

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