Sunday, February 10, 2008

A little bit of Rant

Swiped from Bookslut

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats explains that craft and passion aren't at odds: If I say a band is "dedicated to their craft," that sounds boring and staid, right? Well, fuck you, then, Jack, with your antiquated half-recycled notions of how craft and intensity are somehow at odds. Craft is the path to the damn palace, and the palace's windows are all ablaze with the fire that's constantly raging in all the rooms, and it's not even uncomfortable for the people who live there, because they have become accustomed to the heat.


I've had this particular discussion recently and many times before when the topic turns to writing. Sometimes folks get it, and other times they look at me with the expression reserved for highschool cafeteria mystery meat. "Craft" is boring. "Craft" is dull. "Craft" is knowing verbs from nouns, how to use a semicolon, and what an infinitive is before you split it. There's no blood in "craft". You don't need "craft" to write.

Of course not. You don't need craft to write anymore than you need craft to play piano, compose a symphony, paint in oils, sculpt in marble, or -- hell -- build a deck in the back yard. You don't need to know HOW to do something in order to do it, right? You just DO it because of the 'talent' or the 'art' or even because you have a 'passion' inside you.

That's not talent, art, or passion you're feeling there, bud. That's gas. One good fart and you'll feel better.

If you have a passion for something -- if it eats you up, consumes you thoughts, obsesses your nights and fills your conversation to the point no one will risk saying 'hello' to you anymore -- then you want to know all there is to know. You may have this brand new thought, but after the adolescent thrill and hubris of "I am the only one EVER" has passed, you might gradually realize that people have been working on stuff like what you want to do for some hundreds or thousands of years. You'll realize there is a huge body of work where most of the mistakes have already been made, and you can look at that work and those mistakes for yourself. You don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Here's the kicker. Someone says "Well, I don't want to USE wheels." That's great. But the concepts that go along with wheels or wings or rocket propulsion are the foundation stones for your great idea. If you insist on building your marvelous machine without those foundation stones, it will fall over, and either you'll have to start from the bottom and reinvent foundation stones of your own (which, really, is sometimes necessary) or you'll go back and learn what you wanted to skip because it was tired and boring and oh, so basic.

Or you'll go watch TV and fart in the couch cushions.

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