Sunday, October 10, 2010

Arts and/or Crafts

There's an ongoing "discussion" on the DorothyL listserv that asks the question: Is writing an art or a craft? And I think there's only one definitive answer:

I don't care.

Writing is my job. It's what I do for money, for pleasure, for recognition, for entertainment. It is the only thing I know how to do really well, or at least better than most of the people who aren't doing it. And if I take a moment while I'm writing to ponder whether or not what I'm creating is a work of art... I'm dead in the water.

There is craft to all art. Sure, Michelangelo could be inspired to create a statue of David out of a block of marble, but the fact is, if he weren't a magnificent craftsman, it would have come out looking like a block of marble, maybe with arms. By the same token, Bob Vila spent years on "This Old House" working with power tools, hand tools, nails, screws, hammers, saws and blueprints to make some old dump look amazing (and by the way, Bob, if you're reading here and have nothing to do, I have a house in New Jersey that could use your help and yes, it's officially old). He could have all the craft in the world at his disposal, but without the vision to create something beautiful, what he'd have would have been an old house with a coat of beige paint on it.

The fact is, it doesn't matter whether writing is an art or a craft. It has to be both, or it will be neither. But if the writer spends his/her time fretting over the level of art he/she is creating, the book/story will be bad/bad.

Writers write. That's what we do. We start with an idea (creating something from nothing--something pretty much no one else can do) and develop it into an emotional, intellectual, tightly crafted document that the reader gets to decide is either a superior form of entertainment, or dreck.

Is it art? I have neither the time nor the inclination to care.

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