Writing is a Craft

Not like the arts and crafts either. A real craft. Something that you should be working at, ever honing, ever pursuing new heights of your craft.

Which is why it boggles my mind when people talk about refusing to read the work of others, refusing to try to improve their ability at stitching words together to make stories. There’s this sentiment within these writers that you’re naturally gifted with the right instincts, or you aren’t. It is certainly the case that some people are gifted with a better natural skill at working with words, but that doesn’t mean people don’t have to work at it and get better. There are no cases of people with consistently successful careers that aren’t perpetually trying to improve themselves. Sure, it is in vogue to pretend that the writing just happened, that the person behind it is somehow an accessory to the created work. That’s helpful when we’re trying to examine it from a literary standpoint, but when you’re talking about how to write it seems nonsensical.

Let’s examine it as though it were something other than writing for a second. Instead, let’s talk about game design. This is an area that I also work in, throwing my hat into the ring with a few different companies. Not everyone needs to use the same books, the same underlying theories about game design in order to succeed, but they do need to critically examine what they’re doing. They need to be willing to play the board games of others, to analyze them. No single game designer can continue to succeed without knowing how board games are designed. You can be successful with a single game, but for continued new games that are successful, you need to have some idea about game design.

The alternative is to look at art. “Outsider art” is used to describe everything that falls within the “self-taught” or otherwise “naive” artists who were never taught through the established institutions. Nothing here is to suggest that the institutions are what we need, but rather that even outsiders are continuing to hone and develop their crafts. They’re often still trying to improve, even if through the challenging of the establishment. The important piece here is that they’re still “self taught”, with an emphasis on taught.

Now, none of this is to say that you have to do this. If you have no interest in improving your craft, no interest in either critical or popular acclaim, then certainly you have no obligation to do this. If you’re going to throw yourself into the arena, then you can do whatever you want. If you want to be taken seriously but your peers and potential audience, it is my opinion that you should take yourself and your work seriously.

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