Writing is the primary basis upon which one’s work, one’s learning, and one’s intellect is judged—in college, in the workplace, and in the community. Writing expresses and brings out who we are. Writing is portable and permanent therefore it can be recorded and displayed as and when required. It makes your thinking visible. It helps to present facts, inferences and opinions. It also demonstrates the intellectual flexibility and maturity of a person. Writing ideas down preserves them so that you can reflect upon them later.
- Writing as a Craft
Let us first understand what is a craft? A craft is defined as an activity involving skill in making things by hand. It is a skill which involves practical art and is often used to describe the family of artistic practices. Princeton Wordnet describes craft as ‘the skilled practice of a practical occupation’. It’s a trade, with skills that can be learned, refined and passed on.
Just as a musician studies musical theory and a woodworker studies wood and tools, writers study ways to improve their craft. The writer also studies how to write news stories, features, articles or editorials. The basic rules remain same that he can follow to write proficient piece or writing a novel or a specialized communication.
It takes skill to create a piece of writing one word after another and one sentence after another. It takes skill to put the produce a cohesive whole. Skill is required to paint a verbal picture or create a particular atmosphere. In order to follow or to bend the rules, the writer must first know what those rules are. Some of the rules deal with grammar. Other rules outline style.
2. Writing as an Art
The things that touch us, that move us emotionally, many of these could be pieces of writing. Even if these are hundreds of years old, they still have the power to bring forth a powerful response. The Art of Writing
Writing as an art is ideally an open-ended medium of expression intended either as a more lasting form of communication, a lingering personal interaction, or as a succinct means to convey ideas and feelings to others, now and in the future. As an art form, it requires motivation (a reason to actually go to the trouble), a facility with words (word smithing, i.e. the brush strokes of writing), a dash of creativity, and just enough attribution (and/or plagiarism) to add spice and to suggest to the reader that the author actually reads the works of other authors!
When we think about the things that move us, that stir us emotionally, many of these are pieces of writing. Even if these are hundreds of years old, they still have the power to elicit a powerful, even visceral response.
Think of any of Shakespeare’s sonnets, the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Those words are no less powerful today than the day they were first heard – and there are hundreds of similar examples. Some are beautiful, some are significant, some are both; all are art.
Structurally, writing consists of the basic skills of arranging words and thoughts in a semi-permanent form for the benefit of others. “…a daunting blend of perfectionism and a terror of failing in his quest, as he liked to phrase it, ‘a hundred thousand words in a cunning order’.” [Douglas Adams] Writing can always be therapy, vanity, and/or egotistical in the extreme. But when others benefit more than the author, then it’s the art form of writing — it’s the reason for all of the fuss.
3. Writing as both Art and Craft
Musicians cannot express their art without learning to play first (i.e. music is an art, but practicing is not — even though the content is the same in both). Painters cannot create a beautiful picture before knowing how to paint. And writers cannot write before learning a language (and all the things listed in your post). Every art has a learning aspect to it, and this is the craft. I’m not disagreeing with you; in fact, I’m 100% agreeing. Writing is both an art and a craft, but it just seems to me there is no way to eliminate the craft from art. Good writing is both a art and craft, because it needs some basic skills and inspiration.
Art is the essence of that originality and the power of the end result. Craft is execution using the tools of the trade: a great hook, a compelling set-up, a plot point that grabs the reader by the throat, irresistible stakes, magnificent tension and elegant exposition, blinding twists and heart-wrenching character arc, and a denouement that goes down like a smooth southern beverage on a steamy summer night under a full moon. In athletics they say you can’t coach speed, and the same can be said of the art of storytelling. But it can be learned, and the formula for that is this: read, write, repeat, read, write, repeat.
The art of storytelling is an aesthetic sensibility that evolves with fickle timing, and you have to chase it down and then hold on until the whistle blows. As for craft, the formula is much more precise: set-up, plot point, response, proactive pursuit, final twist, selfless heroism and irony. It is a discipline that you’ll embrace before you write a successful, publishable story, whether it be through discovery as you write drafts or through story architecture that you create as a roadmap for your narrative.
In the end, if you do it right, the reader will never know the difference between your art and your craft just like that first bite of something succulent prepared by the hand of a master chef. It just takes you there, without a hint of recipe, and equally dependent upon both the art and the craft of the creator.