Saturday, May 30, 2015
Is Writing An Art Or A Craft?
There's a question that frequently arises where discussions of writing take place, and that question is whether or not writing is an art or a craft. Of course, in the offline and pre-Internet world writing isn't often seen as one, single, thing. "Writing" is a word that describes a broad range of tasks and/or material that involves the use of the written word.
Not all writing is the same. I think the answer to the "art-or-craft" question depends on the type/purpose of the particular piece of writing. Some is art. Some is craft. Some is a combination of both.
Then, though, something a lot of people don't really think much about is that some types of writing are sometimes also a science-of-sorts.
It's over-simplifying all three, but I think "art" suggests imagination and creativity. "Craft" suggests being capable of achieving the piece-of-writing's simple purpose. "Science"/'science-of-sorts' suggest that the piece of writing involves understanding the process by which a more complicated response within the reader.
A well-crafted piece of art can happen by accident, so sometimes that more complicated response in the reader is essentially an accident. A piece of "craft writing" that happens to be done with artistic flair sometimes achieves the same thing. In both types of cases the writing could be said to be done almost in a vacuum, leaving reader response essentially up to chance.
Approaching a piece of writing from the "science angle" involves keeping potential reader responses in mind as the piece is crafted, but also using one's understanding of human beings and human nature as the guide for finding ideas to present and for putting together those combination of words in order to increase the chance of achieving the desired response in as many readers as possible.
The "science-angle" approach to writing can seem, even actually be, quite manipulative of the minds/emotions of potential readers; but the writer who has a solid enough understanding of "the science of writing" and of human beings understands the part of human beings that can see through attempts to manipulate and the part that recognizes the simple truth that takes place, and is evident, when the writer's sole aim in his writing is to share humanity with the reader.
I suppose one could say that when an author has a solid understanding of the psychology of the reader that writer is better able to use the "science-angle" approach to his writing. When, however, the writer has a solid understanding of his own and his reader's humanity that writer will be most effective in his use of that approach - because, after all, the only truly effective use of the "science-angle" approach to a piece of writing includes that "infusion of humanity" into the words and the way in which they're presented. Without that "infusion of humanity" into the words, it could be said that the author hasn't successfully mastered that "science-angle" approach to writing, and that is writing would be better called, "craft", rather than "science".
Posted by ME Whelan at 9:54 PM