Monday, September 26, 2011

Remember - It's A Craft

I was marking a couple of assignments over the weekend and I realised that two of them had been sent to me too early. The market analysis was not as in-depth as it could have been, not enough thought had been given to the article topic, nor to the editing process. One article even ended in mid sentence.

Now, don't get me wrong, I quite understand students' keenness to want to get going, writing and submitting. But it made me think back to the last country show that I went to, where I saw a man, sitting at his stall, working on his latest leather gift he was creating.

With his small wooden mallet, he hammered the punch into the leather he was working on, stopped, blew on it three times, before rubbing the tips of his fingers across the newly-created indentation. Then, he turned the leather over, rubbed his fingers across the braille-like mound he'd marked, before turning it back over and repeating the process. Only when he was happy with each indentation, did he move onto the next step.

At what point did this craftsman feel that he was starting to craft something? When he picked up his mallet? When he picked up the punch? When he first felt the indentation with his fingers? Or when he had the idea of what he was going to create?

It's easy to see the craft of writing beginning with the moment when you start writing, or at least, editing. But actually, the craft of writing begins with the idea, the angle you decide to take, and then how you will develop that idea for the market you've identified. The craftsman, here in this photo, spent time selecting the piece of leather he was going to use, in the same way that we should spend time selecting the idea that we are going to develop.

When the time comes for you to send off your article to an editor (or your tutor) think about it instead as a piece of physical artwork, like the leather goods this craftsman has on his stall in the photograph here. Are you really happy with it? If, instead of sending your text in an envelope, or via email, you had to place it on stall in a marquee at a country fair for passers-by to purchase, would you still have confidence to put it out on display? Would you be proud of your creation? A craftsman (or craftswoman) only put out their best work on display for others to buy. As writers, we should be striving for that attitude too. Whether it's a letter to a magazine, an article, short story, or novel, only when our work is the best we can possibly make it.

Good luck.