Yesterday, I had my students free-write on a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin in his Poor Richard’s Almanack. They were directed to choose one from a list of twenty-three aphorisms and explain what it means to them, why they chose it, and if they have any experience to which the aphorism applies. Being a free-write, they could address all or only a few of the topics as long as they explained what it means and wrote for ten minutes straight. I wrote alongside them. The one above is my chosen aphorism. I think it speaks to us writers and crafters, especially for the former in this age of Twitter (etc).
So, what does Franklin mean? Don’t just dream it; make it happen. This is the basis of many motivational posters one sees in teacher catalogs and the like, and for good reason. Many of us dream of being something (or someone), but unless we work to make it happen, it remains but a dream or desire.
When it comes to writing (or any kind of creating, more on crafting later), it is easy to go on Twitter and proclaim oneself a writer and join the #WritingCommunity and hashtag #amwriting. We ask each other questions about style, motivation, main characters, setting, etc. And this is all good, to a point. However, if we don’t get off Twitter and actually sit down and write something, we are just seeming, not being, writers. Joining a community is great, but eventually I (and you, each of us separately) have to sit down in my chair alone with my thoughts and wrangle them into some semblance of meaning.
There are days, many days in fact, when this is easy and exhilarating. The words flow and the story or poem or essay falls into place. There are other days, however, when this is hard. The ideas either churn in your brain but resist flowing out through your pen (or keyboard), or they go on vacation altogether, leaving your brain a temporary tumble-weed town. And it’s the memory of those rough days that can make us reticent to sit down again; they seem to stick to us more powerfully than the wonderful days. Sometimes the anticipation of the hard work involved in writing is worse than the experience of it, and so we talk about our writing rather than do it. We seem instead of be.
When it comes to crafting (I told you I’d get to it!), I think perhaps it is even easier to seem rather than be. Maybe this is because the world at large views crocheting, sewing, quilting, knitting, etc. as hobbies rather than professions. Though some can and do make a living from them, most of us, even those of us with Etsy shops, don’t rely on our crafts for income. And we are not expected to. (Of course it is not easy to make a living as a writer either, but it is more accepted and expected.) If I say, “I’m a writer,” then others ask about the product. “What have you written?” If I say, “I’m a crafter,” then others either say very little. “Oh, nice.”
Additionally with crafting, we run the risk of building our stash without building our stock. Being a crafter, it is hard to resist the allure of the fabric store, the craft store, and the like. And once there, it’s nearly impossible to walk out without purchasing something—often many somethings. To justify the cost, we tell ourselves that we’re going to make something for our Etsy stores, but more often than not, we’ve been to the craft store three or four more times before we get around to making one item. And the stash piles grow. All over the web, there are articles, blog posts, and Tweets about them and how to use them. Our stash piles are lovely things, full of possibility. But, unless we make something with them, they profit us little, and may actually oppress us with their untapped potential.
What we write on a given day may need much editing or may need even to be discarded as we start again (this piece itself has undergone several revisions), and what we craft may or may not be a success in either construction or popularity, but we did it. We tried. If we are writers or crafters, or both, let us be them, not just seem so.