Writing: Why Don’t Writers Think of Themselves as Artisans

by Alison on June 15, 2012

Life at Chronicle Books is incredibly inspiring. Not only do I love the books we publish and the exciting authors we work with, but my colleagues are equally inspiring. Never before have I worked at a company where creativity is so valued, from the design-magazine-worthy office space down to the wacky parties (Darth Vader piñata anyone?).

Here’s a typical conversation in the office.

Me: I like your shirt!

Coworker: Thank you. I made it!

Me: (mouth hangs open in shock)

It seems that everyone in the building is something of an artisan. My coworkers brew their own beer in elaborate backyard brew labs, make their own mustard and sell it at the farmer’s market, and design and make their own line of scarves–and that’s just to name a few. And they do these things because creative passions fill us up, because they love to make things with their hands, because bringing something lovely into this world is a small way to say, I am here and it is good.

They don’t do these things because they hope to give Budweiser a run for the money, or become the next French’s Mustard, or unseat Hermes’s monopoly on fine scarves. This is what I think makes them artisans, doing something lovely and by hand for the sake of the thing itself.

Check out this awesome video about Herriot Grace and her dad. I found it on DesignSponge and it really struck me. Why don’t more book trailers have this feel? I want to stand up at the end and cheer Herriot and her dad on. I want to buy one million wooden spoons!

Herriott Grace Trailer from John Cullen on Vimeo.

For some reason, I worry that we as writers have moved away from this artisan spirit, the joy of doing something because we love to. I know I’m guilty of it myself. It’s very easy to knuckle down and get obsessed with SEO and data and e-readers–to track everything, slave away soullessly at the computer, and dream of the day when you become the next JK Rowling.

So this is one of the many gifts Chronicle has given me. It is a daily reminder that anyone who is creating something beautiful is an artisan, that just the act of writing is magical and fulfilling whether it leads to anything or not. For me, it is a place to go and be inspired by people pursuing beauty in every shape and form possible, from throwing pots on the weekend to felting knitwear.

If you don’t have a creative workplace, I recommend surrounding yourself with other creative people who are pursuing their passions, whether they play guitar in a local band or bake cakes out of their home. These are the people you want to surround yourself with so that you can cheer one another on and keep inspiration alive.

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