The HeArt and Craft of Writing

pixabay image

My blogger friend Sean Carlin wrote a post a few days ago about Artistic Originality. He’s a writer with a background in film, and he often laments the industry’s sequels and reboots that sacrifice the original film’s creative power for a guaranteed (but unsatisfying to the viewer) box-office bump.

His post got me thinking about the same phenomenon in books and what makes a story original.  We may disagree on the number of plots available to us, ranging from 4 (man vs. man, man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. himself) to Polti’s 36 (here’s the list). But we can all agree that the number we have to work with is limited.

Since we’re essentially rehashing the same plots millions of time (sit with that thought for a minute) how is it that we aren’t bored to tears with writing and reading? Aren’t we all, in a way, regurgitating our favorites?

Sean Carlin

Carlin concludes his post with a reflection on his current writing endeavor Escape from Rikers Island, and to me, he defines what makes a piece of art original:

“For better or worse, it is a reflection of my personality, my interests, my sensibilities, my experiences. When I read it back, I …hear myself. It sounds like me.”

In lauding George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy, Carlin writes:

“… he diversified his influences, internalized them, developed an authentic voice all his own, and—this part is key—summoned the courage, without any assurances of a receptive audience, to make it heard.  If all artists took inspiration from that and aspired to the same, our popular culture would yield a limitless bounty of originality.”

I find these conclusions both wonderful and daunting because they place originality in a realm where we, as artists, have full control—our individual collections of experiences, imaginings, and most important of all, our hearts.

My reflection on Carlin’s post led to the core of what makes a piece of art compelling and memorable to me, which is the artist’s internal investment, the deeper the better. In writing, it’s an author’s emotional soul that feeds a story and evokes a reaction. That personal vulnerability requires courage, but it’s worth it because readers perceive the authenticity of the human experience unfolding in the books they love.

The blogosphere is full of spectacular advice on the “craft” of writing, but not so much on the “art.” Because heArt is like a fingerprint—personal and one of a kind. It isn’t something taught, but a rich quality mined from a soulful place within us. You are sublimely unique, and therein lies your source of originality.

Carlin wrote in his comment to me:

“…tools, techniques, and even theory are cool, but they’re only there to help us create an authentic emotional experience, and we can’t do that unless we write honest stories, drawn from our own experiences, imparted with a piece of our souls … I think that goes to illustrate just how sensitive storytelling is—what a delicate balance between heart and craft we have to strike in order to get it right.”

I love that.

Happy Writing. ❤

183 thoughts on “The HeArt and Craft of Writing

  1. MaddNichol says:

    I wrote a paper back in my first year of university. Writing is flawed, my idea went, in that the tools behind it are imperfect. We will never be able to describe, in words alone, the beauty of the sun setting over the Mediterranean, lighting the sky a dashing shade of orange. No matter how many words you use to describe anything, you will always fail. But that’s the point. As George Orwell once said, “To write or even speak English is not a science but an art. There are no reliable words.” Words fail, and yet writers persist ceaselessly, never stopping, never quitting, always struggling to perfect their fundamentally imperfect craft. To me, that is the most compelling thing about writing, and reading for that matter, and why people always come back to the craft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the great comment. I agree that words in and of themselves will never be enough. Perhaps the best we can do is evoke the core essence of a thing, a person, an emotion, or sunset with enough depth that readers find a mirror inside them. And, of course, that reader’s “vision” is colored by their own experience. John O’Donohue says that we are each ultimately alone because none of us can possibly comprehend the subtle richness of another’s cumulative experience. I think art, including writing, is one of the bridges between our solitary islands of its evocative nature. Ah, so fun to muse about this stuff. Thanks again for the visit. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. elixssam says:

    I think every artists, no matter the field, asspires to put heart in their work. Over all I believe we want to be heard and seen. Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing this

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for reading, Melissa. I agree, but I also think that opening the heart can feel risky and deeply emotional, and not everyone wants to dig around in that pain. And yet its in the depth and richness of our experiences that the originality lies. Fun, huh? Ha ha. Have a great weekend and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Juliajewell says:

    Good post! I love reading about writers ❤following!

    Also, I thought you might be interested in participating in this quick writing challenge! I’ll be promoting the blogs of anyone who participates!

    https://themomsomnia.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/quote-writing-challenge-all-welcome/

    Liked by 3 people

  4. j2w7 says:

    🌟🌟🌟🌟🏆👍😉-JW P.S.: Happy writing to you, too!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ellustar says:

    Reblogged this on SEO.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Then again, in the ancient Book of Ecclesiastes the author notes: “There is nothing new under the sun.”

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Hi! I enjoyed your post and your blog and would appreciate if you’d check out mine! I’m a writer. savagestyledotblog.wordpress.com

    Liked by 4 people

  8. heresabible says:

    I need some help writing. I like this post a lot and would appreciate everyone’s thoughts on my writing. It’s sort of a fangirl page about J.R.R. Tolkien, as well as a Bible giveaways site. And candy. Thanks for all your help. Zech

    Liked by 6 people

  9. Tylerjdavis says:

    I think the hardest part is reconciling originality with ability to sell. That’s definitely where a lot has gone wrong in Hollywood. I think that writers are a bit insulated from that particular problem, though. Our audience is usually built by us, so we have a greater likelihood of impacting that audience with originality.

    Fascinating read, thank you!

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Tyler. I agree with you. Films are so expensive to produce that selling is critical. But the reboots and long series seem like a cop out when fresh material exists everywhere. Books don’t have the same marketing pressure, and the appeal can be to a narrower audience and still be successful. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I don’t have a camera anymore but photography was my thing for 30 year. I am too disabled do photography anymore. Now I write with words not with light.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. I’m writer as well with strong background in still camera work.

    Liked by 6 people

  12. Really enjoyed this post.
    Do you think music works in a similar way?
    There is only a finite number of melodies we can create?
    Interesting thought.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Someone mentioned music somewhere in the comments, noting that there are a limited number of chords and notes, and yet amazing variety and originality continues. So yes! I think all art works the same way. And I think the passion of the artist comes through too. Thanks for the visit!

      Liked by 3 people

  13. FUIN says:

    Reblogged this on Stow-away Book.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. […] via The HeArt and Craft of Writing — Myths of the Mirror […]

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I couldn’t agree more. The technical aspects are important to make sure the story isn’t lost, but without heart there would be no story to tell. Writing without heart tends to come across like an academic research paper. I don’t know about everyone else, but I’m glad academic writing days are well behind me. Great post!

    Liked by 5 people

    • I’m glad those academic writing days are behind me, too! I also think that readers can tell if writing lacks heart. I notice it the most when characters fail to react emotionally to what’s taking place in their lives (bantering after someone close to them is killed, or kissing while running from an ax murderer). Ha ha. Thanks for the visit and have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. anjana says:

    Yes! Writing is what happens when your soul connects with some infinite energy in the universe and your experiences, observations, learning, conscious or unconscious, flow through you to the pen and paper. 🙂 It is indeed sublime! Loved your article. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  17. So well articulated! ♥

    Liked by 3 people

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