Is writing a craft?
We use the word “craft” in a lot of ways. Sometimes it’s derogatory–“art” is provocative or Meaningful, “craft” is popsicle sticks and hot glue. In VBS I loved the craft station best (both as a kid and as a conscripted mom!). Give me all the popsicle sticks, and if there’s yarn and buttons, bonus! But, for better or worse, this is what many people think of “craft”: what little kids do to make terrible gifts for their family members, what bored housewives do to stay busy, and what little old grannies do to… well… make terrible gifts for their family members.
Please note, if it’s not obvious by now, I do NOT subscribe to these stereotypes, and I’m thrilled that “craft” is coming in to its own. I love to catch episodes of the PBS series Craft in America, which celebrates “craft” as important, and even necessary in the stories of our lives.
In the living of our lives.
In my biased crafter’s view, craft encompasses beauty (even if it’s not “pretty”) and interest. Craft is often–but not always–functional: a warming quilt, a wearable sweater, a wooden spoon. Craft is creative minds and careful hands, making something with purpose.
Writers use the word “craft” to imply attention to the delicacy of making, each turn of phrase and plot point carefully placed, like popsicle sticks… or stitches, or brushstrokes. Crafting suggests skill; crafting means we’ve taken time to learn. We work on our craft.
I can’t speak for all writers, but I have a hunch… and I know it’s true for myself… that while we think of ourselves as “crafting” our words, we may not think of our finished written work as “a craft.” Somewhere between the writing and the reading, it becomes a piece of Art.
Even though I love crafts, even though I believe in their necessity, I was (indirectly) challenged today to admit to myself that I believe my writing is more than “just a craft.” Writing is surely supposed to be Art, and Soul. Writing is a calling. It’s more valuable, more important, more interesting than “just” a craft. There’s more of me in it, so it is precious. It’s no mere Etsy shop listing.
I stewed over this for awhile, cycling through defensiveness and a bit of shame, before I realized the problems with valuing “crafts” and writing-craft on different scales.
My crafting–no popsicle sticks, but plenty of yarn and the occasional glue stick–is important. To value writing-craft higher is unfair and untrue. Literally minutes after this issue came up for me this morning, I got a message from a friend who needs a white stole; she has been asked to officiate a friend’s funeral next month.
That one message gave me a reason to work. I had tools close at hand, and the skills to use them, and the time to start right away.
Weaving stoles may be “just a craft,” but it has become my contribution to ministries I will never see in person. I’ve sold stoles for memorial services, weddings, first sermons, and seminary graduation gifts in the midst of global pandemics.
When I receive grateful messages from the pastors and friends-of-pastors who’ve bought my stoles, I cannot believe that this work is of less value–or is less ministry, or has less of my heart in it–than anything I might write.
If I think of my writing-craft as higher, deeper, more important, and more valuable, I begin to treat it too preciously.
And finally we get to the feel-good part of this blog post, today’s HUGE realization: what if I stop thinking that my writing-craft is so important?
Okay, I admit, it doesn’t exactly feel GOOD, but it does make me feel a bit BETTER. It explains why I get stuck, why I don’t finish my big-idea writing projects, and, frankly, why I often don’t even start them.
There’s much to reflect on, but for today, on writing-conference day 5, halfway through, I’m resting here. For the rest of the conference, I’m going to sit with this: What might happen if I see my writing as less precious, as the simple, craft-y junction of need, tools, skill, and time? Can I look at writing-craft as craft-craft, and deeply value the beauty and utility of them both?