There is a massive difference, I’ve learned, between self-service and self-work (or self-love/self-help/self-care if you prefer).
If 2017 did anything it was make me realize how many things I’d like to accomplish in this life as a writer – I have book ideas that have been floating in my head for the better part of a decade, I have ideas for blog posts that are waiting to bubble to the surface, I have other creative ideas I’d like to embark on that support these efforts. Of course, these aren’t really specific goals I’m discussing – I’m not here to write about that right now. No, no, no.
No. In fact I’ve also learned as of late that while I’ve been writing for what feels like a long time, I actually haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to writing tales, or stories, of a certain type. I have a novel I’ve restarted three times over the course of a decade (one that is admittedly painful to write), and am now reworking at it again for what I am determined to be the final time before bringing this thing to light. But for a long time I wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing.
That isn’t to say I can’t write a story; I’ve been writing in a non-fiction/journalistic fashion for well more than a decade now, and before that I was smitten by the art of books, stories, songs, and, as a writer, the personal essay in my youth (poetry also struck me big in those days, but I was always hesitant to heed the call to dive into writing at that point).
My love for books, which has swelled exponentially as I’ve aged, has made me realize that while one can love books, that does not mean one can actually just go sit down and write one (or maybe it can, but for me, it hasn’t). There is, of course, a method to the madness of writing, and while every writer has his or her personal method or approach, I’ve learned that there lies a foundation for every story, a bones-based structure of sorts (and there are, of course, many incredible stories that do not follow strict structure).
And writing has a craft to it. Not just the structure of craft, but the approach to writing is craft. The part of craft that involves caring.
The best works I’ve written are the pieces that I’ve been most invested in, the ones that do not feel like work, that don’t feel exhausting even after combing through them over and over again to be sure the flow and rhythm is there of what I want to get across.
Previously I would scoff at the idea of focusing on craft. Not out of some elitist mindset, but because I felt structure was an oppressive force that would destroy the element of art or creativity within me. Now, however, I’m realizing more and more that I sort of hover above a hybrid approach to my writing, one that involves a weirdly-puzzled layout that I add to in bits in pieces and that allows me to see, from a bird’s eye view, what it is am looking at (this process is currently in the sculpting stages, if you will). Then when I get on the ground, so to speak, knowing where the landmarks on the map are, I can be free to create my way toward them. The discovery of a beat sheet has so far been a great saving grace in this regard, and is what I’m working on now for this forthcoming book, tentatively titled The Snow Files.
But again, whether it’s about writing, or life in general, craft is about caring. I recently read a phenomenal book by Jon Gordon called The Carpenter. The book, while short in length, is beyond powerful in its message of what the value of craft really means.
And for me, lately, this has been very much about the craft of self. Last year allowed me to dig deep within and peel back layer after layer of who I thought I was trying to be as a writer, and realize what I could be and most wanted to be in this art form. The process has been beyond valuable for someone like me, who has battled negative mindsets and self-doubt and has faltered to the whim of uncertainty and fear for a long, long time.
I’ve realized that the craft of self is a long, flowing and evolving process, and this in itself has been a bit of a revelation, an epiphany. And in that flash of light I’ve found the potential ground to actually gain momentum in my writing. I’ve done this mostly through the reading of books, the taking of notes, through meditating (although I’ve barely scratched the surface on meditation), and through deep thought and working hard to connect with myself. Writing longhand in a notebook or journal also helps immensely with this.
Writing and life, from the view of a craftsperson, go hand-in-hand. Writing quenches the soul’s thirst, and the soul’s experiences of life fuel writing. They are ever-interacting friends, supporting one another. Both take a while to understand fully, and the process is never finished, only fine-tuned on a consistent basis.
Most importantly, everyone – everyone – has their own path to embark on. There is no right path, there is no wrong path, and everyone’s form of craft (be it in writing or the self) will be and is different. We are the ones that light our way, through the movement we take and through the inspiration we wield from those before us and alongside us on their own paths. And by following our own routes and paths, regardless of how we approach this craft (be it in writing or in life), the fact that we approach it as craft, as a work of art, as a work of caring and service – one that we’re willing to fine-tune frequently – is what matters.
(Photo via Free-Photos / Pixabay)