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Thought # 3

Is writing a craft or an art? Is a writer a craftsman (craftswoman) or an artist? You might respond, does it matter? Well, language flourishes where it is used precisely, so, yes, we would do well to properly label our wordsmiths.

Some might distinguish between craftsmanship and artistry by a final product. That is, can a body of words be characterized as workaday, prosaic, commonplace? Were the words laboriously assembled on a nine-to-five schedule—churned out according to an efficient formula? That might describe the output of online content writers, deadline journalists, and technical writers—all skilled practitioners of a craft.

Or is an assemblage of words largely the fruit of imagination? Was the text produced by communing with a muse or otherwise taking a flight of fancy? Were the words assembled in a rush or, conversely, at a leisurely and unscripted pace—either of which denotes the work of a person unconscious of a time clock. Can the resulting body of work be described as art?

Were the writing life so simple!

The foregoing logical conclusions are shredded by the anomalous nine-to-five journalist or copy-writer whose bylined report or anonymous copy is astonishingly lively or touching or otherwise transcendent, leaving readers gasping and momentarily forgetting what they were going to read next. Good writing can be discombobulating—and it can be found anywhere.

The soul of a superior writer can’t be neatly fitted into a genus or genre. Writing skills are too portable for compartmentalization. He or she might be an artist or a craftsperson, but the distinction mostly is immaterial. The person is a good writer and that says it all.

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