The Craft

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Rory Miller (Meditations on Violence) shares his thoughts on the craft of writing — and some other arts and crafts:

Writing is like money. It’s also like fighting. And like driving. It is one of those things where the people who deal with it professionally don’t think of it the way that amateurs do. Raised as a poor kid, I assumed that money was a zero-sum game, that if you had more, someone else had less. Professionals see money as something that can be used, harnessed and managed and as inexhaustible as thought.

A tactical team doesn’t look at confrontation or violence or fighting the way a martial artist or a martial sport competitor does. It is not a test or an adventure or an opportunity for personal growth. It is something to be avoided or ended as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible.

When my wife first introduced me to her writers group I was shocked to discover that professional writers approached it as a craft. It wasn’t inspiration. It wasn’t a gift from the gods. It was a skill that you spent hours of practice on. It was learning the tools to get a thought from your brain into others and having it be received with the effect that you intended.

Writing for yourself is fun. Putting the world in your head down on paper so that you can revisit it and enjoy it is good. But if you want to publish, it’s not enough. You have to put it on paper so well that it creates the image in other people’s heads. That’s a skill, and it takes practice. It also takes a dedicated listening to your good first readers. If you have to explain your story it’s not because they “didn’t get it” it is because you failed to give it to them.

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