Reading, Writing & The Absence of Presence
The astute amongst us will note that I have not written for…um…a long time. Yowser!, has it really been almost three months! Who’s keeping my calendar, anyway?!
Seriously, though, I’ve been busy reading. And writing.
Some of the reading I’ve been doing lately is about writing. The reputation that I hear I have is for being a good writer. Truth is, though, writers are made; not born. There’s definitely truth to what Nancy Lamb says in The Art And Craft Of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide To Classic Writing Techniques:
Some people are born with the gift of storytelling. You know them: friends who can talk about the most mundane encounter and captivate an audience. They know just when to pause, when to draw out the details, and when to deliver the punch line. They’ve got the instinct for narrative.
But she goes on to point out some equally true facts about the writing life:
Even if we’re not among those fortunate few blessed with this inherent skill, we can learn how to master it.
Storytelling is an art, but it is also a craft….
Craft involves technique. Craft has rules. If a potter doesn’t center the clay on the potter’s wheel, he can’t throw a pot. If a cabinetmaker doesn’t measure the wood carefully, cut corners at the proper angle or join those corners correctly, she can’t build a level table. What the potter and the cabinetmaker produce may be art. But they could not produce that art without craft.
What Lamb doesn’t say is that even those with an instinct, or an affinity, or — if you prefer to think of it this way — a natural ability for a thing must work to hone it. Michael Jordan may have been “something” from the minute he picked up a basketball, but don’t doubt for a minute that he became the legend he is through constant and repetitive practice. Michael Jackson was a hit from the minute he stepped onto a stage; it took several decades of daily repetitive practice to build him into the King of Pop.
I’ve never had the privilege of meeting either of the Michaels mentioned above. But from what I’ve read, Michael Jackson was familiar with those who came before him; he admired and studied them. From them, at least indirectly, he learned about craft.
My life has (obviously) not been as glamorous or as well-followed as these icons in their fields. This provides all the more reason for taking my cue from them. Thus I’ve spent a great deal of time lately reading books about writing.
Actually, I’ve always done this. But I’m stepping it up because I’ve finally decided that if writing is where my strength really lies, then it’s time to stop relying upon any “natural gifts” I may have in this area; it’s time to do some work on craft.
They say that practice makes perfect. But I suspect that practice does not make perfect, if one practices imperfectly. So far, most of my writing — check out my various websites accessible from the main page of this website — has been based on whatever “natural” abilities with which I was born.
It’s time to take the next step. If I can. Time to embrace that which (because of the pain involved), I’ve resisted. So, for now, I’m digging into a study of the craft of writing.
Tomorrow, I may begin to write again.