This past week, I immersed myself in the June 2011 issue of The Writer. Reading this magazine is both work and pleasure for me. Each issue always has at least one article that resonates with my current writing situation in some way and the June issue is no exception.
Chuck Leddy, a contributing editor, interviewed Roy Peter Clark, a true master of the writing craft and writing teacher who has published many books on the writing craft. The one I have on my “to buy” list is The Glamour of Grammar. In the interview, Clark talks about that book as well as specifics about craft, e.g. use of concrete details, use of strong nouns and verbs instead of modifiers, how to write “cinematically,” structure, good writing process, and being inventive with words. When I finished the article, I felt buoyant, joyful. And I made a discovery.
I discovered that publication means a writer has the necessary skill level to craft clear, imaginative stories that offer a different perspective on the human condition, the writer’s own unique perspective. So, publication can be a validation of a writer’s craft as well as validation of a writer’s passion. It also means the writer has managed to get her writing into the hands of an editor at just the right time, since luck influences publication all the time.
I also discovered that it’s quite possible to recognize craft in other writers’ work, to understand what craft is, but not be able to fully use it. For example, the short story I’ve been working on has gone through several rewrites (I’ve lost count) and during the past week I’ve been thinking about the craft issues it has. Why is it that I see only one or two issues that I work on per rewrite? Why can’t I see all the issues to work on and just get them all done at once?
Rewriting is also a learning process. No matter how many times a writer has been published, how many stories or novels or screenplays he’s written, each piece is an opportunity to learn more about craft. Each piece comes to him from his imagination to challenge his craft, his knowledge, his willingness to learn. I suppose progress is when the writer spots all the issues before sending it out to an editor, or at least more than one or two.
Perhaps, publication is a graduation. The writer has learned through the writing and rewriting process and is ready to go on to the next level which is really the next story or novel or screenplay. The next challenge and lesson. I used to think that publication would validate my purpose in life, i.e. to write and tell stories. Now I realize, my purpose needs no validation. It is what it is. I write.
I write to learn, share, entertain, provoke. Publication also means acceptance and the opportunity to reach more readers. It means connection on an intellectual and emotional level with the people who read my writing — an agent, an editor, marketing executives, cover designer, copy-editor, publicist, bookseller and eventually, regular people who love to read.
For me, publication does not mean fame and wealth. I’d love to be rich so I wouldn’t need a day job, but writing for money is not part of the craft. Writing to learn, for connection, to contribute to the world, to entertain in a way that could perhaps make the world a better place — that’s what being a writer is all about for me. Publication is one step in that process…..