Sunday, July 18, 2010

True Ease in Writing Comes From Craft, Mr. Pope

Writing is a craft. Period. That’s the only way I can look at it and do my best. Seeing writing as more than that, seeing it as, say, art, would set me above the writing making me incapable of doing it well.

In my view, writers should never see their work as art, at least until it is on the shelf, and certainly not in the creative phase. It’s hard enough choosing the right word, the right description, the right story element to worry about that elusive something that takes a tale into a higher realm.

I am speaking of prose, here. Not poetry. That’s different. And as the current draft of Catch a Falling Star is lucky number thirteen, I’m still struggling with the craft. Thirteen drafts? Complete rewrites? What business do I have trying to cram art into it, assuming I even know what that means?

I have spoken to several writers, unpublished, who describe themselves as artists. A noble ambition, perhaps, but premature on the one hand, and downright elitist on the other. At least to me. But then again, every time I see a picture of Rodin’s The Thinker, I can’t help but feel that the dude’s constipated (see attached image). So take my view for what it’s worth.

I’m saying that art is a consummation devoutly to be wished, but in writing can only be defined in the hearts and minds of the readers. It’s the reader who determines whether a story is art, not the writer. And I believe it’s the individual reader as well. Not the reader as a collective entity.

As an example, I love Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I read it most every year, and watch at least one of the filmed versions around holiday time. To me, it celebrates the light of the human spirit by showing us the dark -- with a little bah, humbug stinginess along the way. In other words, art -- for me. Someone else may read it and say, “It’s about the redemption of an old coot.”

And that’s fine. That’s the beauty of diversity. The beauty of drunken brawls over the true meaning of existence or the shelf life of a Twinkie. A British gentleman I met in England told me that American football contains artistic elements. As an example, the long pass. “Your quarterback throws the ball,” he said as though it was taking place in front of him, “not to where the receiver is, but where he’s likely to be. When the ball falls into the receiver’s hands in stride, it’s a thing of beauty. It is art.”

I like football as much as most dudes, but I wouldn’t go that far. But it doesn’t matter really. To him, it was art. To me, not so much. Though I’d love to see the Cowboys do that a little more this year.

Bringing the ship into port, I just want to tell a good tale, and let the chips fall where they may. If I tell the best story I can, and people like it, and I make a good living off of it, that’s the absolute best I can hope for. Art is irrelevant to the process.

I’m not going to lie. One thing I dream of, and many writers dream or should, is someone writing or walking up to me one day and saying, “Rock, your story is art at its finest.” Immediately after silently questioning their taste and/or sanity, I will say something like, “Thank you. I really appreciate that.” And I will mean every word.

Because every writer wants her or his story to be read and create an impact of some sort on the reader. So, for me, there would be no difference between the above compliment, and “Dude, your stories rock!” And while the above “art at its finest” patron would see The Thinker as Rodin’s masterpiece, the “your stories rock” fan would agree with me and offer that poor man some Ex-lax.

As I’m visiting my aunt and cousins on Wednesday, I will post next Sunday’s entry Tuesday evening. And it will be on craft.

I am continuing on with my outline, and am liking it.

1 comment:

  1. Some really great points in here, Rockstar. I would be hard pressed to say anything I write is "art" as I, too, have much to learn on craft. But I DO love that writing offers continued learning.

    Congrats on loving your outline. I know this draft of Catch A Falling Star will be a great one. xoxo