Recently, I read James Baldwin’s “A Letter to My Nephew”, which I would characterize as an intimate text that speaks about race from one generation to the next. Baldwin starts the letter with: “I have begun this letter five times and torn it up five times.” Not only does the first sentence imply Baldwin’s difficulty with writing, specifically with beginning to write, but the sentence also implies that Baldwin’s writing process operates as repeatedly revising.
As writers, we are craftspersons. We select, arrange, and polish our words to communicate in the most concise and clear manner as possible. Take, for instance, a craftsperson that creates desk chairs. I say “desk chairs” because I appreciate a sturdy and comfortable desk chair that pairs with an equally as qualified desk to facilitate a workspace.
“In reality, we are never finished writing because better ways to write will always exist.”
This craftsperson selects the desk chair’s material; then, arranges the desk chair’s parts; and then, polishes the desk chair for refinement. The craftsperson wants to create the best desk chair that users, like me, will appreciate and use. The art in creating a desk chair is its aesthetic and its functionality. The same principles apply to writing. Like the craftsperson, the writer writes the best by revising continuously, that is, writing and re-writing; or selecting, arranging, and polishing..
Obviously, I understand the difficulty in writing, let alone revising what has been written already, especially when the process required more time and attention than anticipated. As soon as we ‘finish’ writing, we say: “Thank Goodness, I’m done.” But we are never finished.
In reality, we are never finished writing because better ways to write will always exist.
That is why this blog post is an invitation to writing as a craft: the commitment to repeatedly select, arrange, and polish words that will communicate in the best manner possible.
Zachary Thomas is a junior Writing Center consultant majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Writing.