Writing is a craft

Posted by: faaiken on May 18 2013, 6:07 pm in ,

The Craft of Writing
(Second post of The Business of Writing Series)
By F. A. Aiken

When asked during a televised interview “What is writing?” Shea Barkley answered “Writing is perfecting the craft.” I liked that answer. Writing is a craft. In the middle ages and the Renaissance, people learned their trade and craft through craft guilds. Someone wanting to enter the professional first must find a master craftsman willing to train him in the techniques of the profession by becoming the Master’s Apprentice. Here, the young person will be trained in the techniques of the craft, given instruction and opportunities to hone his skills and learn the rules of the trade or craft. After years of gaining and honing this knowledge, the apprentice becomes a journeyman, also called a fellow craft (fellow of the craft), being able to perform the trade without supervision. After years of work, he would submit his masterpiece to the guild and hopefully be accepted as a master of the craft, thereby being able to take on apprentices to train in the art of the craft. As the work of the master craftsman continue to gain fame, his peers would bestow upon the master the title of grandmaster.

At each stage of his tenure in the craft, the individual continues to increase his or her knowledge through learning how to apply the rules and knowledge gained to produce products of value through hard work and constant practice. At each stage, the rules are different and are necessary to increase the quality of the work. As an entered apprentice, the writer needs to learn about proper manuscript style, fundamentals of copy rights, proper use of grammar, the structure of the story, how to plot, etc. Once the writer masters these basics and advances to be a journeyman or fellow of the craft (fellow craft), the writer is taught more advanced material, such as the rules of revision, marketing techniques and other business fundamentals required of a person making money from the trade. Once the writer has increased his or her knowledge and skill levels through practice, some of the earlier rules no longer apply as they have become internalized into the writers being and are done automatically in the writing process. So the secret to advancement within the craft is practice, practice, practice. A couple of decades ago, Volkswagen featured an advertising campaign using a German work that translated into English as “continuous, never ending improvement”. And this is what the writer must strive to do with his writing. How can a writer improve? Through practice! So what is the definition of practice for a writer? Sitting at the keyboard, butt glued to the chair, fingers pounding on the keys forming words letter by letter into recognizable sentences that tell a story, minute by minute until the session is over. Each story, each scene, each sentence is practice. Learning for a writer is a lifelong endeavor with the single goal of never ending improvement in his story telling techniques. The writer is a lifelong learner. Remember, Writing is a Business and the writer’s desire is to succeed in this business by mastering the craft of writing. In the words of Dean Wesley Smith, the writer only needs to focus on the next sentence.

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