Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How writing is like woodworking

Yep. This here post is about how writing is like woodworking.

I haven't already posted this, have I? I know I've thought about it. If it's redundant, well, shit, you'll just have to live with it. It's important, I guess.

Now, any damned fool can write a story. That's what we all believe.

And any damned fool can build a box. That's what we all believe.

But let's address that fool, and say this to him: Can you please build me a box?

The Any Damned Fool (ADF) says, Sure, I'll build your box, and they run off and cut up some plywood, hammer it together, and hand you your box.

Can you see your box?

I can't.

The ADF (Any Damned Fool) builds the box in the same way I built that description of the ADF's box: slipshod. Nondescript. Simple and without vision or attention to function or durability or quality. ADF's box can be of any size or form, made from a long list of components.

An ADF writer would build a story the same way. See what I mean?

Now, bring in the carpenter, the woodworker, the writer and author. Let him build you the box!

Say to the woodworker: Build me a box.

The woodworker doesn't run off and start hammering! Nope. He says, How big?

I need a 3'x3' box, you say.

Is that inside storage capacity of 3'x3', or do you want the outside dimensions to be 3'x3'?

Inside storage dimensions, I guess.

How much weight do you want it to handle?

I don't know. Sturdy enough to fill with rocks, I guess.

All right. That means using strong joints, maybe even dovetailing them. That's the strongest joint, you know, a dovetail with glue. Don't even need nails or screws! Now, what about a lid?

Um, yeah, I guess a lid would be nice on my box.

All right. You want it hinged, or do you want the lift-off kind with a handle in the middle.

Dang, I don't know. A lift-off lid is fine.

What sort of handle do you want? I can buy a knob, cut a hole in the top, use a piece of wood for screw-on grip.

Just cut a hole, I guess, keep it simple.

Nothing simpler. Now what about material? MDF won't hold your 3'x3' volume of rocks. That'll burst. I'll probably need to use 3/4" plywood, maybe with an external 2'x4' frame or brackets. You don't mind an external frame on your box do you? I can make it look real pretty, like trim, or just slap on some wood.

... and so on.

Do you see the difference? Do you see the comparison between writing and woodworking, between the ADF and the professional in each field?

The difference is in the details, in the attention to what matters, and in how they approach the problem!

Like an experienced carpenter, a seasoned author will approach their story with premeditation, and take small, deliberate steps along the way, constantly going back over what they've built so far to ensure it meets either their original vision, or changing their vision based on how it's coming along so far. In the end, they have a highly polished, quality piece of work!

And there's nothing slipshod about it.

It's easy to say Any Damned Fool can write, or build a box.

But when you start cutting wood, or hammering out words, you'll find it ain't so easy, now is it.

- Eric

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