Saturday, March 15, 2008

Curious about Craft: What Is Yours? How Did You Choose It and Develop the Necessary Skills?

Definitions of Craft : (1) Art or skill; dexterity in particular manual employment; hence, the occupation or employment itself; manual art; a trade. (2) Those engaged in any trade, taken collectively; a guild; as, the craft of ironmongers. (3) Cunning, art, or skill, in a bad sense, or applied to bad purposes; artifice; guile; skill or dexterity employed to effect purposes by deceit or shrewd devices.

If it's flipping hamburgers at McDonald's, be the best hamburger flipper in the world. Whatever it is you do you have to master your craft.” - Snoop Dogg, American musician

I chose craft as this week’s theme, because I feel it has a much broader meaning that most people attribute to it. Yes, it is an art and/or skill – in my estimation, anyway. I like the similarity between the hours spent learning a manual craft – as a possible apprentice – or learning a skill that relates to leadership, relationships, communication and even selling.

Years ago, when I was pursuing the fine art of fiber and clay, there were other artists who felt that if you didn’t paint, you were only a craftsman. You will also notice from some of the quotations that there is the same broad definition of craft in the areas of writing, acting, science and more.

In any case, I propose that we develop the craft and/or crafts we wish to pursue until we become true masters. I appreciate American novelist, Amy Tan’s thoughts, “I wanted to write stories for myself. At first it was purely an aesthetic thing about craft. I just wanted to become good at the art of something. And writing was very private.”

Here are some more of the many thoughts about craft I found:
  • Most people won't realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.” - Katherine Anne Porter, American journalist
  • Soon I knew the craft of experimental physics was beyond me - it was the sublime quality of patience - patience in accumulating data, patience with recalcitrant equipment - which I sadly lacked.” - Abdus Salam, Pakistani scientist
  • We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” - Ernest Hemingway, American novelist
  • If one takes pride in one's craft, you won't let a good thing die. Risking it through not pushing hard enough is not a humility.” - Paul Keating, Australian politician
  • The life so short, the craft so long to learn.” – Hippocrates, Greek scientist
  • You cannot limit yourself to one area of specialized craft. Instead, regardless of craft, you have to charge all forms of expression that lead to the community, to other people, with meaning.” - Alexander Kluge, German director
  • Well you can't teach the poetry, but you can teach the craft.” - David Hockney, English artist
  • The dirty little secret of journalism is that it really isn't a profession, it's a craft. All you need is a telephone and a conscience and you're all set.” - Andrew Sullivan, American journalist

And a few more for you to ponder:

  • You should put time into learning your craft. It seems like people want success so quickly, way before they're ready.” - Lucinda Williams, American musician
  • It would be curious to know what leads a man to become a stationer rather than a baker, when he is no longer compelled, as among the Egyptians, to succeed to his father's craft.” - Honore de Balzac, French novelist
  • Craft is part of the creative process.” - Gavin Bryars, English composer

So, do you have a special craft? How do you feel about the approach?