Craft Talk

It is always hard for me to tell others
why it is I write.  It is not exactly as if
writing is something writers are trying
to encourage others to do.  I write, like
I do most things, because I feel compelled
to do so.  If I did not write I would sleep
worse at night, I would be plagued by
yet more anxiety than I am, perhaps
even of the more crippling kind.  I would
be much less enjoyable of a person to
be around in my daily life if I did not
have some outlet for what is inside.  And
I suspect that is true for most other
people who write as well.  The task of a
writer is to channel that compulsion into
something that is worth reading, something
that can help someone else deal with their
struggles and experiences, something that
can allow one a sense of empathy for those
who are on the other side of what one
writes, those who may be the people being
written about, who may not always
appreciate that they have kissed a writer
in the dark and that their deeds will come
into the light of day when things have
inevitably gone wrong.  How to make one’s
words something that will ease the
difficult challenge of communication, will
make it easier for people to relate to each
other and to understand each other is by
no means an easy or straightforward
task, and yet that is the task of a writer.


It is perhaps inevitable that someone who writes as often as I do will stop from time to time and reflect upon why I write [1] or even create imaginary interviews like this one from the point of view of the writer.  I tend to think that most people who are intensely creative are that way out of compulsion.  You have things inside and they need to get out–either you become creative and guide and structure the way things get out or your life resembles some of the more disturbing scenes of the aliens franchise.  The choice is up to you.  I do not think that this problem is related only to writers.  I strongly suspect that compulsion is at the basis of a great many creative arts like visual and digital and sculptural arts or even dance as well.  In many ways the creative person is a midwife of something that is inside them, something that maybe does not even belong to them, but something that has to get out and that the artist works to get out in the way that is the most beneficial and the least harmful to everyone else.

We tend to think of writing as a means of self-expression.  We express what we may be thinking or feeling or imagining, and hope that someone else will read it and appreciate it.  Yet writing can be more than that.  In the act of expressing ourselves, we can develop our empathy for other people.  At times we will say things that others feel but feel unable to express.  At times our writings will encourage other people to be more open about their vulnerabilities and struggles because they will know that the writer is an empathetic audience, and can relate to them in some fashion.  As writers our self-expression is inevitably the part of a greater conversation.  We speak hoping that someone will listen and, if we are fortunate, respond in a thoughtful manner that leads to a longer talk.  We write hoping that someone will read, understand, and write back.  The same is true in other arts, to be sure, but most of those are arts I do not know or practice, so I will leave the craft talk of those crafts to those who know them better than I do.

Why is this work titled “Craft Talk” in the first place?  As it happens, I was finishing a magazine yesterday and it happened to have a section of craft talk for people to write about writing.  I thought this was an elegant way to go about the issue of the reflection on a craft that is undertaken by those who are involved in the craft, and I thought it would be worthwhile as well to present my own perspective on writing, at least in part, through the means of a work of creative writing that was at the same time a commentary on the art of writing itself.  Being a person who likes deeply layered works, it is perhaps natural for me to seek to add layers to things pretty naturally.  I am reminded that this tendency is not mine alone, as there was once a Seinfeld episode (I know, this dates myself) that involved a coffee table book that could also be folded out in to a coffee table.  A poem that is simultaneously a poem about the art of writing is something that is a bit meta, but hopefully I can be forgiven for such an artifice.

What do you, dear reader, think about the craft of a writer?  Are you someone who reads materials and find that your reading feeds your writing, as it does for me?  Do you think that it is necessary or proper for a writer to seek to defend their art?  Do you think it makes someone seem less creative or less praiseworthy as an artist if their art is done under some sort of compulsion or if there is entire freedom about one’s creativity?  Is writing a better compulsion, in general, than many other things that people do compulsively?  Are there any questions that you would ask a writer about the craft of writing if you had the chance to interview one face to face, or computer to computer, as it were?  If you are a writer as well, what are your own thoughts on the craft of writing, and the responsibility of a writer to take what is inside and shape it effectively in the course of one’s writing?  Do you believe a writer is responsible for how something is read when that reading is not intended by the writer?

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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