Craft vs. Art vs. Business

Writing is a craft:

  • As a craft, writers are expected to adhere to certain established principles that determine assessed quality of a written piece:  these principles apply to everything from grammar to structure, from genre boundaries to logical development, from character arc to the tools used to evoke an effective scene.
  • As a craft, writers are expected to develop the skills required to practice the craft at a professional level.
  • As a craft, writing can be learned, studied, and practiced.
  • As a craft, anyone who is given the opportunity to learn and uses that opportunity to master their craft can learn to write at a professional level.

Writing is an art:

  • As an art, writers are expected to nurture those immeasurable talents that cannot be learned; these talents range from our narrative voice to our intuition when combining story elements, selecting the right word for the right sentence, and managing the flow of words and ideas.
  • As an art, writers are expected to hone their abilities required to practice the art at a master’s level.
  • As an art, writing must be developed, honed, shaped, and practiced, but relies on something more elusive than that which can be taught.
  • As an art, anyone can hone their writing artistry to a professional level, but not all of us will be regarded as consummate masters, and only few of those consummate masters will truly stand the test of time and become names that travel through history, guiding and shaping those who follow.

Writing is a business:

  • As a business, writers are expected to perform their work within the confines of specific expectations, which range from producing marketable work to marketing one’s final product, from tracking submissions to meeting deadlines, from building a network of support personnel (editors, proofreaders, publishers, graphic artists, etc.) to creating a platform to attract readers.
  • As a business, writers are expected to master certain skills required to work at a professional level, though it is also possible to “hire in” these skills in the form of support personnel, and the degree to which these skills are required varies between genres and career tracks.
  • As a business, writing is a marketable skill, but it is also a commodity, which means that writers who want to earn a living have to work harder and more effectively than the majority of their competition.
  • As a business, anyone can learn how to market themselves effectively, but only a few who have some natural talents in this regard will be able to propel themselves to the highest levels of professional success.

The successful professional writer will approach writing from all three points of view and find a way to merge them that works for him or her.  None of us have to reach a mastery level in all three areas to succeed, but if you want to be a professional writer than you need to attain a minimum level of skill and ability in all three areas to make even a modest living.

Consider these stereotypical roles:

  • The starving artist – may have mastered the art, probably hasn’t mastered the craft, and definitely hasn’t mastered the business of writing.
  • The successful hack – has probably mastered the business and craft, but definitely hasn’t mastered the art of writing.
  • The midlister – has probably mastered the art and craft, but definitely hasn’t mastered the business of writing.
  • The bestseller – may have mastered the art or craft, though probably not both, but has almost certainly mastered the business of writing.
  • The repeat bestseller – has probably mastered the art, craft, and business of writing.

Which of these labels do you want to wear?  What kind of writer do you want to be?  The choice isn’t a matter of right or wrong, but it is a choice.  It’s not too late to choose a new path.

About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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2 Responses to Craft vs. Art vs. Business

  1. acflory says:

    Oh beautifully laid out! This article is the most succinct definition of the choices facing writers that I’ve ever read.

    In our secret dreams I think we all imagine ourselves as masters of all three branches of the profession but the truth is that most of us will be lucky if we manage to truly master just one.

    For myself I think I can master the craft and perhaps become at least proficient in the business but the art…that is beyond my talents. The recognition of my limitations almost made me give up before I’d truly begun but then I realized that my job is not to become another Shakespeare [fat chance], it is to become the best writer that I can be using the talents that I was given. If I can achieve that then I’ll be happy.

  2. A little talent goes a long way if you hone it; and craft and business are both skill sets that can be learned and mastered, which means good sales and a successful career are within your grasp. But, yes, Shakespeare is a level of mastery very few will ever reach and that’s okay. If just anyone could be a Shakespeare, the name would cease to carry the weight it does.

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