Do or Do Not.

Art vs. Craft vs. Play

without comments

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much of my writing I would consider “art” versus how much I would consider “craft.” How, I wonder to myself, do my percentages of inspiration versus perspiration play out? (And yes, these are the kinds of things I set my brain working on so that I don’t have to actually, y’know, write anything.)

My fear is that I’m all craft, no art. I don’t say that to dismiss the importance of craft — in fact, depending on exactly what’s being written and for what purpose, the craft can be even more important than the art. And I know I’m good at the craft. I communicate well via the written (or typed) word. I like to think it’s one of the things I do best. But I don’t want to think that there’s no art behind the craft, that there’s no soul in what I’m writing. And too often, I’m afraid that’s true.

I think it’s related to my ongoing struggles with figuring out exactly what it is I’m supposed to be writing. No, wait, that’s not true; I do know exactly what I’m supposed to be writing. The ongoing struggle is with the fact that I tend to work on what I think I’m supposed to be writing moreso than on what I want to be writing. When I write something that my brain tells me to write rather than when my heart tells me to (ref. aborted YA novel from last fall), I can’t really pretend to be very surprised when my heart’s not really in it, can I?

(The terrible truly thing: I keep having to come to the same conclusion about my passions every few months or so. Staying on point is, apparently, not one of my areas of strength. I think I need one of those reminder bracelets to tell me to keep focused on the things I actually want to write. Anyway.)

I discussed this point with a friend of mine, and she told me that she didn’t really think about her writing in these terms at all. The art grew naturally out of the craft, essentially, and I can certainly see that, even if it hasn’t proven true for me; perhaps I just never stick with anything long enough to let the art truly emerge. But the most important thing she said to me pointed out something I always, always overlook when I’m writing: she tries to focus on her writing as “play.” “Play” is something I so rarely allow myself to do when writing — my perfectionism seems to have robbed me of the ability to just loosen up, to have fun while I’m writing.

And it should be fun for me, shouldn’t it? My writing doesn’t have to support my family. No one (other than me) is pressuring me. There’s no reason to make it this Big Tortured Thing, which of course is exactly what I do every single time I look at a blank document. I’m not saying that I shouldn’t take the writing seriously, but clearly I don’t need to be taking it quite so seriously if it’s crippling my ability to write at all.

Writers in the audience… you have any opinions on the relationships between art, craft and/or play? Do you have fun when you write or is it a chore to be gotten through to get to the shiny finished product on the other side?

Written by Allen

March 2nd, 2006 at 10:25 pm

Posted in Writing

Leave a Reply