Deb Sarah pits Art against Craft

opposite of me cover-1Out of all the posts I’ve written for the Deb Ball so far, this has been the toughest one for me.

Usually, I glance at the week’s topic and an idea instantly springs to mind.  Taking my author photo? Easy-peasy. Writing about deadlines? No problem; deadlines are my old frienemy.

But Art…. well, you see, I’m not artistic. I don’t paint, dance, sing, or sculpt. My husband chooses all the colors for the walls in our house, because if it were up to me, I’d pick Benjamin Moore’s Most Boring Beige. Don’t get me wrong; I love experiencing someone eles’s art. I can appreciate Monet’s flowers and Picasso’s quirky lines and Georgia O’Keefe’s erotic flowers. I love listening to music, including the original piano compositions by our very own Deb Alicia on her Reservoir CD. I just can’t create it myself.

I don’t consider my writing art  -it’s pure craft. Writing to me is messy, exhilarating, frustrating, joyful and depressing. The emotions all pile up on each other as I sit down at my keyboard and fight for dominance, like those swirling ping-pong balls at a televised lottery drawing. I never know which one is going to surface first.

It’s the steady, methodical side of my mind that sorts things out and takes control. “Write 1,000 words today,” it instructs me as I sit down to work. First I re-read yesterday’s pages, backspacing over an ill-considered adverb and realizing a character needs one more telling detail to make him come alive. Then I try to drown out the voices in my head – they can be really mean, like a pack of middle-school girls – that tell me my prose is criminally bad, and that what I’m writing will never be published.

“Push on,” my methodical mind whispers reassuringly. “You can always fix it later.”

If I were an artist, I might depend on a muse. But what would I do if she slept in one day – or worse, developed mononucleosis? What if her fairy dust suddenly lost its sparkle? Craft is no-nonsense; it gets up at 7 a.m., yawning and stretching, then has a solid breakfast of eggs and black coffee before heading off to battle traffic and curse at the guy who makes a left-hand turn and forces everyone to miss the light. Craft isn’t fussy.  No mean middle-school girl would try to mess with Craft’s mind. Craft shows up, gets the job done, then heads home to have a well-deserved Budweiser.

Now I’m off to craft those 1,000 words.

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Sarah Pekkanen

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10 thoughts on “Deb Sarah pits Art against Craft

  1. Interesting post! I was going to object when you said your writing isn’t art until I read that you consider it craft and now you’ve got me thinking.

  2. Maybe your approach is craft, and the result is art? So interesting … this will have me thinking, too. Thanks Deb Sarah!

  3. A woman came up to me the other day after finding out I am an author and said, “You write books! How very FUN for you!” I wanted to clock her. Fun? It has its fun moments, I suppose, but mostly I sit staring at the computer, eyes twitching, brain aching as I attempt to drip the right combinations of letters onto the page. However, I heard once that art is simply the artist’s interpretation of life. Hmmm…

  4. I think a lot of word people aren’t very visual. My husband is extremely visual and he can’t believe it that I’m not. One day, we were away from the house, and he said, “You know that print above the dining room table?” And I was all…”Ummmmm…” He had to describe it to me even though I’d been looking at it at every meal for the last four years. Even then, it was sort of hazy in my mind!

  5. Interesting to me as well and Alicia offers a brilliant thought: “Maybe your approach is craft, and the result is art?” After all there’s THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron.

  6. Oh those voices. I just turn my back on them and live my life of not so quiet desperation.

    It occurred to me this morning that writing a novel is like cutting down a big tree with a sewing needle. It can be done, but it takes great patience.

    Thanks Sarah.

  7. Greg, you crack me up, and that’s one of the best analogies I’ve ever heard. Are you, by chance, a writer? 🙂

  8. Those voices, Sarah? They are the sound of KFKD, the radio station in your head, as described by Ann Lamott in BIRD BY BIRD. You’ve gotta find a way to shut off KFKD before you can get going! As you clearly have.

    I suspect that many artists feel about their work the same way you do. I think great art takes no-nonsense craft to make it happen.

  9. Sarah, Sarah–It’s a crime to paint walls beige! Good for you for letting your husband make more lively choices for you–I’m sure you appreciate them 😉

    (I say this as someone who chose such bright and varied colors for my home that our architect despaired. He wanted white, all white everywhere. That’s when I put my hands over my ears and sing “LalalalalalaIcan’thearyou!”)

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