Saturday, February 16, 2008


It’s been a long time since I’ve had a craft, which makes me something of a rarity in my family. Perfect strangers commission my aunt to paint pictures for them. My wife wraps gifts so beautifully that their recipients don’t want to open them. Whenever there’s a dinner party at my parents’ house, my mother assembles place settings that look as though they ought to hang in the Louvre. Then there’s my cousin, who builds single-family homes from the ground up in the Florida Keys. You get the idea; they’re a talented bunch.

Yet even when I was young, my crafty endeavors were clumsy at best. There’s a handsomely matted and framed fingerpainting that hangs outside my childhood bedroom. It still makes me wince when I see it. There must have been some reason why my six-year-old mind decided to outline a mud-brown centipede in dandelion yellow and splash a royal-blue background behind it, but the exact rationale has vanished. Inside my old room, you’ll find some hacked scraps of wood, old attempts at woodcarving. I had friends who, with an inch-long blade and a bit of sandpaper, could coax perfect spheres or linked chains from solid blocks, the knife strokes invisible, the surface smooth as velvet. My efforts usually evoked squinted examinations and comments like, “It’s a duck, right?” (It was a rabbit, in case you were wondering.)

Writing is the closest I come to craft these days. And it is a craft, not a part-time job as stenographer of the sublime. It’s labor and even if it doesn’t involve physical sweat it feels as though it ought to. Initial attempts begin with a pen and a canary-yellow pad. When that’s filled up, it goes into a computer, often in radically different form. The printer spits out a typo-riddled hard copy, and I have at it. Nothing subtle, just messy macro editing. The process repeats until I feel bold enough to show it to a handful of constructive critiquers. Around the fourth or fifth ride on the revising merry-go-round, I discover I have something I wouldn’t mind sending off to an editor or two.

The printer whirrs. My hands leech warmth from the paper, which smells slightly metallic. The stapler clacks. Now I’ve got something. It isn’t made of marble or maple or even Play-Doh. But a thing once empty is now filled. Something that once floated in the mind’s ether can now be saved and shared. It’s mine. I made it. And I don’t mind all that much if you have to squint and ask me what it is.

(Picture: CC 2008 by Dr.DeNo)


jason said...
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jason said...
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