Let’s start out by watching this video.
Go on. I’ll wait.
If you’re like me, you like to stare at lathes and CNC machines. It’s not my job, but in my past, I’ve had the privilege to be an industrial photographer and filmmaker. I’ve been to forges, machine shops and shipyards all over. I love watching each individual shaving come flying off an aluminum blank as it slowly takes shape. I relish the precision involved, and the concentration of a true master.
I think, in another life, I would’ve liked being a craftsman (though I’d whine about not being a writer). I’m sure I’m not alone, given how many people love to watch wood turning, pottery throwing, sculpting, engraving, etc. There’s a reason the New Yankee Workshop aired for 20 years with a substantial viewer base, many of whom probably don’t even do woodworking.
The John Neeman guys are artisans.
Look back at the John Neeman video. What, do you suppose those people are thinking about as they make that axe? Do you suppose any of the following questions are going through their heads:
- Will my girlfriend/boyfriend enjoy this axe?
- What is the current state of the axe industry?
- Am I going to make a bunch of money off this axe?
- What distribution channels will give the best yield for my axe?
- Did Sven make more axes today than me?
I mean, it’s possible, but it seems unlikely. And yet, authors get wrapped around the axle on these all the time:
- Will my friends like this story (and will they think well of me for writing it)?
- Is my story something that will trend in publishing?
- Will I get a big advance/preorder base?
- Should I self-publish or go traditional?
- Did Sven write more words than me?
Damn that over-productive Sven!
Artisans get lost in the work, because they love it.
I know it’s tempting to think all of these meta-thoughts as you write, but that’s not what you’re there to do. Good writers care–more than anything–about telling a story they’d want to hear. If you’re struggling, wondering, “What’s the point?” when putting words to paper, you’re not focused on the act of writing, itself.
Forget about all that nonsense of public perception, finances and personal comparisons to other writers. Forget about everything that exists outside of the world of your story. I know it’s not easy, but you have to try, because for the moment, your story belongs to you and you alone. No one else’s opinion matters.
Whether you’re the type of writer that mills out one line at a time, precise and weighted, or you like to carve it in rough, sanding it and smoothing it down to exactly the shape you want, you can get lost in the work. When you open up your computer, typewriter or journal, seek out that zen-like state that exists outside of the harsh realities of consumerism. Look for safe spaces that enable you to explore all the things you want to explore.
Find a way to be an artisan.
For those interested, I’ve also dropped in the preview video for Clickspring, which is an incredible YouTube channel. No, I do not make clocks.