Notes on Craft

Occasionally, I want to write about craft. The art of writing. The whole ink-fire process of distant pixels and digital lettering. The origin of all misc documents on my desktop. I don’t know how so many accumulated on my wallpaper. They look like a bunch of dead dreams when I log into Windows. A graveyard of emotionless white icons with vague titles on their headstones. When you write about the craft, it sort of becomes synonymous with advice. I always feel uncomfortable giving out advice. I’ve never pretended to know what I’m doing when it comes to writing. Where it comes from. The muse itself. The source of diction-dripped passion. Make no mistake, when an author starts talking about craft they’re looking for more answers than the audience is.

If I’m going to talk about craft, I need to examine where my influences came from in my past. You can only connect the dots looking backwards sadly. Life would be dull if you could figure them out beforehand.

I was drawn to writing because poetry had been a tremendous source of comfort for me in high school when my depression spiked. The language of Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Shakespeare, and many others put me in touch with an emotional side of writing that resonated with my deep sensitivity for the world around me. I could tell from their poems that they were like me in a way. They felt deeply about the environment around them. They were able to the travel the unseen truths spun behind all our everyday distractions. They were emotional, raw, and most importantly, human. Reading their poems made me feel a kinship to them I hadn’t found anywhere else. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.

Another source of writing which sort of rooted in my brain like some sort of alien implant came from Squaresoft and Enix growing up. Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, Xenogears, Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and many other Role Playing Games on the Super Nintendo and PlayStation. In the video games, you were a player in a dense and emotional story-line. The settings would fluctuate from fantasy, science fiction, horror, or sometimes all three at once. They were unapologetic in their fiction. Somehow, attached to these threads running through all these castles, airships, islands, apocalypses, and monsters, I realized that in these outright imaginary worlds you could still make your characters human. Even if they were villains, knights, wizards, assassins, or lost gods who could rearrange matter with the swipe of a paw, they still experienced all the pains of reality. I admired that in these grandiose worlds you had people suffering from loneliness, and love. It taught me that fantasy could be real.

A final source of writing which really influenced me in some of my most formative years (Ages 14 – 21), was Patrick McManus, who was famous for his humorist essays in Field and Stream, and Outdoor Life. He taught me that writing could be funny, and that some of the most horrible scenarios in life could be skewed just right through a comedic lens. He also sparked my interest in creative nonfiction essays, which have been some of my most popular blog posts to date. Patrick McManus also wrote a nonfiction book entitled, How I Got This Way. I own the book. I bought it while in high school and I was working some crappy movie theater job two days a week. I only started the book, but never finished it. I was frightened of his answers. I wanted him to remain a mystery.

I’m not sure if I have any answers about craft having looked at these three sources from my past. Maybe no writer does. All we have is our experiences, and the general insecurities of being human, which we can all relate to. Being brave enough to share our true influences, no matter how odd or strange they might be is a part of craft in itself. Don’t be ashamed of where you came from.

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4 thoughts on “Notes on Craft

  1. This is the best blog on craft I’ve read. Recalling Mrs. Wilson, my 4th grade teacher who first let me write about cats; Robert Heinlein and the original sci-fi crew; Braun, Murphy, Brown, James, and the other writers of cat mysteries. Thanks to all.

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