The Arts and Crafts of Writing Fiction

Flickr Creative Commons: Kyle Jerichow
Flickr Creative Commons: Kyle Jerichow

It’s A Bungalow? Are you familiar with the Arts and Crafts Movement? For many “Arts and Crafts” refers to a reproduction Morris chair in their den. For others it might evoke Frank Lloyd Wright’s prairie style or an antique Stickley dining set. Each of these is born of the A&C movement, but none of them alone does much to define it.

I was as unfamiliar as anyone until we bought our first house. We didn’t know anything about the style, but we liked that it was affordable, well-built and cozy. Turns out it was a craftsman bungalow. Being a history buff, I fell in love with the house and the style. I’ve since come to realize that my A&C ardency has affected my entire writing journey. Perhaps you too are an Arts and Crafts writer and didn’t even know it.

The Meaning Behind the Movement: When I first heard the phrase: “Arts & Crafts,” I thought of hand-knit oven-mitts at a yard sale. Then I came to know it as an architectural style. As it turns out, the A&C movement, born in 19th Century England, did not set out to promote a particular style but rather advocated reform and a critique of industrialization.

Early A&C proponents rejected the ornateness of the Victorian era. A&C pioneer John Ruskin (1819-1900) advocated honest and exposed craftsmanship in architecture. Ruskin’s writings influenced designers like William Morris (1834-1896), who strove to unite all the arts within the construction and decoration of the home, emphasizing nature and simplicity to make it a refuge of beauty and enlightenment. Morris’s influence reached America via popular turn of the century periodicals such as House Beautiful and Gustav Stickley’s The Craftsman.

The Artistic Craftsman:

“Art is not a thing; it is a way.” ~Elbert Hubbard

Craft is about function, measuring success by usefulness. Art’s value is measured outside of utility, and encompasses beauty and emotional impact. If a craft, produced for its utility, can be made to be beautiful or to evoke an emotion without harming its usefulness, hasn’t it achieved artistic value? If so, it follows that there is inherent value in combining arts and crafts.

Proponents of the A&C movement espoused beauty in nature and simplicity of form; craftsmanship through skills gained by practice and dedication. As a woodworker, I feel the most beautiful and functional items I’ve produced are the simplest and most natural. Through woodworking I’ve seen that skills are gained though doing the work. There are no shortcuts.

It’s wise to study and to plan your projects, but a craftsman’s skill is gained through practice. And artistic results are produced by skilled craftsmen. (Is this starting to resemble writing yet? Just checking.)

The Arts & Crafts Writer:

“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.” ~ Steven Pressfield

The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne. ~Geoffrey Chaucer

As I look back on my nine-plus years of writing fiction, I can clearly recall many instances in which I wanted to consider a project “done.” But, without exception, I’ve been able to take that same work to another level. I’m not saying this tells me that no project is ever done. What it does demonstrate is that we, as writers, should never consider ourselves done evolving and growing.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

A true craftsman knows he will only ever attain the artistic through stretching his skills and then practicing again. The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.

Arts & Crafts Fiction:

“If there were a manifesto for 21st century fiction writers, I hope it would go like this: Down with high-flown literature! Cast off genre servitude! The revolution is founded in authorial liberty. It regards story and art as equals.” ~ Donald Maass

You might not expect a guy who has focused on genre work (I write epic historical fantasy) to be talking about simplicity or striving to be artistic. Genre is about storytelling and obligatory tropes, right? There may be an element of truth there but, for example, I’ve found that the micro-element of complex world-building does not preclude the beauty of macro-simplicity. As I practice and strive, I often find myself stripping away the superfluous, and honing on character goals and motivations to deepen conflicts. And I find the result makes for simpler, more effective storytelling. I also believe the simplest and most natural way to emotional impact is through effective story. Thus, my aspiration for the artistic through dedication to craftsmanship.

The Arts and Crafts writer should strive for ever-improving utility of function (storytelling), which in turn sets them on a course toward beauty through simplicity of form, and impact through that which is natural and human (art).

The Arts & Crafts Writing Career:

“Get happiness out of your work or you may never know what happiness is.” ~Elbert Hubbard

I get frustrated sometimes. And impatient. Some days I just want to be “done.” I am a writer, striving to be an artist. But sometimes I just want to be: Vaughn Roycroft, Writer—with a capital W. With books on the shelf, not still in a file labeled: work-in-progress. It’s days like these that I need to remind myself of my Arts & Crafts philosophy. And that philosophy tells me that I am the work-in-progress, not the file.

When I’m feeling down about a project or the state of my so-called career, the best things I can do are to take a long walk in nature, get back to the my roots as a human being, and then get back to work. If ideas won’t flow onto the page, I go to work in the wood-shop. I’ve found that nothing stimulates the flow of ideas like working with my hands. Even raking the yard is better than moping about the progress of my writing.

I remind myself that even after my first book is published, I must then remember that a craftsman continues to grow and evolve. After my fourth book is published, I will need to stretch my skills and practice again in order to find my way to a worthy fifth.

The Arts & Crafts Lifestyle:

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.” ~William Morris

The Arts & Crafts writer does not seek fame or a lavish lifestyle. We find our art though dedication and through diverse life experience. We find satisfaction in the work itself. We know that only through practice can we achieve the utility we seek in order to stride ever closer to the artistic. We surround ourselves with beauty, and for us beauty is found in simplicity and nature.

In the best sense of the word, we are eternal students. Even when we are teachers, we are still students. WU is a perfect example of the fact that we all have so much to learn from one another—and always will. We writers are students of nature—human and otherwise. We are students of life.

So, what about you? Ever lived in a bungalow? Did you know it when you moved in? Are you an Arts & Crafts writer? Or are you already famous and living a lavish lifestyle? (If so, maybe don’t tell me—envy is not conducive to the Arts & Crafts lifestyle.)

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About Vaughn Roycroft

In the sixth grade, Vaughn’s teacher gave him a copy of The Hobbit, sparking a lifelong passion for reading and history. After college, life intervened, and Vaughn spent twenty years building a successful business. During those years, he and his wife built a getaway cottage near their favorite shoreline, in a fashion that would make the elves of Rivendell proud. After many milestone achievements, and with the mantra ‘life’s too short,’ they left their hectic lives in the business world, moved to their little cottage, and Vaughn finally returned to writing. Now he spends his days polishing his epic fantasy trilogy.

Comments

  1. says

    As I read your introduction I was thinking, “Yes, *yes*! Craft and art! Utility meets beauty! Function meets emotion! That’s exactly what I was talking about in Writing 21st Century Fiction!

    Then you quoted my book. Ah. No wonder I was in agreement.

    Okay, to word working…holy crow, I meant to type “woodworking”! I’m leaving in that typo. Anyway, you are a woodworker, Vaughn? I’ve picked up hints but wasn’t sure. We have much to discuss.

    I’m not a woodworker myself but I’ve been learning a lot about studio furniture makers. I’ve learned the difference between them and turners. I now know what “figure” means, and why quarter-sawn boards are superior.

    And how craft becomes art, and how you cannot have art without craft.

    Why is it that artists find analogies so useful? Perhaps because they’re beautiful? The beauty to me is that a metaphor, in the hands of a skilled word worker, magically becomes a practical tool. Words are selected, then with those tools are shaped into story.

    An artful metaphor becomes a tool of craft…and in turn makes art.

    Thanks for reminding me today of Ruskin. It’s wonderful to feel that I could have sat down and talked with that man in his bungalow and have felt yes, *yes*! I can’t, but I can do so with you in this virtual bungalow. I”m grateful.

    Let’s speak soon. BTW, have you been to Philadelphia’s Center for Art in Wood? Amazing place, mind blowing really.
    Donald Maass´s last blog post ..Bank Street Best Books of 2014

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    • says

      Writing 21st Century Fiction really crystalized my thinking on this, Don. So thank you for marrying my two passions. And, yes, the metaphor is quite useful to me (learning that from the master).
      Since you bring up quarter-sawn wood, did you know that a sawyer can actually increase his yield by quarter-sawing? In one of my earliest visits to a sawmill, I was surprised to learn that squaring a cant and sawing it on the flat yields only an efficiency of production speed, not board feet. I think Ruskin would be appalled by the waste.

      I have not been to The Center for Art in Wood. I just pulled up the Google images, and it looks amazing. Looks like a trip to Philly is in order! And, yes, let’s talk shop soon. Hmm, NYC is only a 90 minute train ride from Philly, right?

      Thanks for contributing to the conversation here. As always, you’ve taken it to another level.
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  2. says

    It’s funny, I feel the same way when ideas won’t come–I need to work with my hands, but for me, that means being creative in the kitchen with new ingredients and exciting recipes I’ve been dying to try. It’s meditative and allows my brain to be creative in a new way without any pressure, which I think helps fill our writing wells.

    Also, I love this:

    “I remind myself that even after my first book is published, I must then remember that a craftsman continues to grow and evolve. After my fourth book is published, I will need to stretch my skills and practice again in order to find my way to a worthy fifth.”

    This couldn’t be more true. As I’m about to embark on my third novel, (and let me tell you, the second stretched me BIG TIME because I changed eras, switched POVs, wrote about controversial topics, and, and, and!), I have a whole new set of challenges before me. I’m learning that with each novel, there is always something new to be learned and frankly, I hope that doesn’t change. It’s part of what makes writing so satisfying.

    Another wonderful post, Vaughn!
    Heather Webb´s last blog post ..What’s in a Writing Process? Here’s Mine + Giveaway

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    • says

      I love to cook for this reason, too, Heather. When I was working in an office full-time, it was my respite in the evening. There’s something very soothing as well as mentally-freeing about chopping and assembling a recipe.

      When I was first starting out, writing was all about the finish line. First to get to the end of a draft, then to get published. It’s funny how reaching some finish lines has a way of teaching us about the actual journey. Even though I’m still occasionally frustrated by my pace, my gratitude far exceeds it.

      A day like today, here sharing with my friends and colleagues, is a reminder of how rewarding the writer’s life can be. Thank you for being a part of mine!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  3. says

    “The next project’s growth is built upon the foundation of the last project’s practiced skill-set.” L0ve this. It’s the unvarnished truth of why a writer is willing to dismantle a work and rebuild with the best fitting pieces.

    “The revolution is founded in authorial liberty. It regards story and art as equals.” Amen.

    I come from a family of collectors. I enjoy looking at beautiful, artful things, but without the attachment of owning–so my motto is ‘design must have function’. The writing is no different. I was once lavish with my descriptions, now I have honed back only what reveals essential truths in my characters lives. It’s a simpler weave, easier to understand, more powerful in pace, and plants seeds the reader can grow on their own.

    Wonderful thought-provoking words, V.

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    • says

      That’s an interesting take you’ve gained “without the attachment of owning.” I recently read some material cut from my first manuscript very early on, and–hoo-boy–talk about lavish description. You’d think I was under the impression I’d be paid by the adverb and adjective. Yikes! I was blushing reading it, and I was alone. As tough as they are in the moment, looking back can make one glad for rejection letters.

      Thanks for a thoughtful comment, D! I have great confidence in the evolution of your weaving skills. I’m looking forward to reading your yield!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  4. says

    Nice analogy. As a fellow wood worker, I can appreciate it. I’ve always liked the simplistic beauty of arts & crafts. Maybe that’s why I prefer a simplistic writing style as well. Just tell the story, as I’ve heard some pretty well-known writers say. And, of course, enjoy the process, much as we like to lose ourselves in the grain of a freshly planed piece of oak. There’s something about removing that rough layer and exposing the wood’s beauty that never gets old. I feel sorry for the Home Depot wood shoppers who never get to experience that. It’s the same with our stories. Taking it from that rough and ugly first draft down to something with lines and curves always makes me love my craft more and more. Thanks for a great post. And remember to wear your safety glasses (sometimes the words fly off the page).
    Ron Estrada´s last blog post ..Are We the German Church?

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    • says

      Ooo–nice enhancement of the analogy, Ron. There’s something so special about taking a rough-sawn timber to boards, and then planning, shaping, sanding, and finishing a piece to reveal its beauty. And it’s so true of writing. We’re revealing the grain patterns (structure) of something that’s almost always already there in that ugly first draft. Thanks for enriching the metaphor.

      And thanks for the eye-protection reminder. I know from experience that the chips will fly, often when you least expect it. :-)
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  5. says

    Arts & Crafts has always been my favorite style of architecture and furniture for its simple beauty. One of the best things about A&C, I think, is how they didn’t paint over wood. Instead, they used stains and varnish to bring out the beauty that was already there, inherent in the wood to begin with, simply a result of the natural growth of the tree from which it came. I think crafting good fiction feels like that–like the truths we illuminate are already out there, we are simply making them more distinct and more noticeable to the naked eye. Thanks for this insightful post.
    Erin Bartels´s last blog post ..Revising Your Manuscript: The Importance of Patience

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    • says

      Great point, Erin, about letting the natural beauty shine through. Our second Arts & Crafts house was a 1916 Foursquare. It was a real gem because no one had ever painted any of the interior woodwork. And there was a LOT of it–all red oak, and gorgeous.

      Even the downstairs window sashes, jambs and trim were varnished oak. They were single-pane and somewhat ill-fitting, considering decades of settling, making them pretty inefficient. I couldn’t bear to replace them, so I custom made 29 new cedar storm-window frames, with interchangeable double-pane glass and aluminum screens. The project took me months and months (each window was a little different, and many were out-of-square). But for me the effort was worth it. Hopefully those windows will be around for another generation–I’m guessing longer even than new replacement windows would’ve lasted.

      Here’s to the effort simplicity sometimes requires, and to revealing its beauty. Thanks for a great addition to the conversation!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  6. says

    I’m no wood worker, but I know that doing things with my hands cultivates the growth of ideas more than browsing Pinterest ever could. I find myself cleaning my room, doing a few blackout-poems in an old dictionary, or simply writing longhand when I get stuck. (Funny. Doing math never seems to help.)

    I loved your third and fourth points best; how you said that your file was not a work in progress, YOU were. And how true it is for all writers! Our stories evolve with us. Our themes intensify as we grow. The diversity in our stories sprawls as we experience. It is a constant learning process, and the bad news is it only gets harder, but the good news is the payoff only gets greater.

    Thanks for the fantastic post. I’ll be stewing on this later today.
    Anastasia Elizabeth´s last blog post ..Your Protagonist is Being Watched

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    • says

      Excellent additions, Anastasia. Breakthroughs and epiphanies always come through the act of working for me, too. And writing longhand can be so beneficial. Same with reading back my work aloud. They’re sort of Arts & Crafts ways of going old school (and Pinterest, as mesmerizing and sometimes useful as it can be, it definitely not old school). And I agree too, that the increasing difficulty also increases the reward.

      Thanks for enhancing the conversation! I get the feeling you’re having quite an enriching writing journey, and I know things will only get better.
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  7. says

    Vaughn, nice work with the sense that persistence in the craft, familiarity with the tools, and a willingness to explore the edges will see results over time. And maybe something to sit on, whether a bed or a book.

    I barely know what end of a hammer to use, and only employ a saw to slice old bread, but I’m a monster with a vacuum. Thanks for leaving us here with a lot more than sawdust.
    Tom Bentley´s last blog post ..Stealing Grandma’s Word Machine

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    • says

      Man, what is it about vacuuming? The steady drone, the visible result of patterned and repetitive movement. I think it sucks away all the excess fluff from my head, leaving me with some weird sort of clarity of thought. I’ve always loved it.

      Combine that and the smell of sawdust–now that’s the crowning moment to a day in the shop. Well, maybe the actual crowning moment is the oatmeal stout that comes next. But there’s nothing like a day in the shop to get me primed for the next writing day. Thanks, Tom – happy vacuuming and cheers!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  8. says

    Beautiful post and such good timing. I need to be reminded, constantly, that writing – like anything else worth doing – will take time to master.

    It’s tempting to want to cover our work with curlicues and fancy molding to hide the inexpertly built bones beneath.

    I’m headed off to write, simply. To strip down my story to its basic structure and polish the heck out of what’s still standing.

    If you and Donald Maass meet and go to the Philadelphia’s Center for Art in Wood make sure to post pictures.
    Greta Boris´s last blog post ..Envy

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    • says

      I’m glad it was good timing for you, Greta. Believe it or not, it was for me, too. I wrote this piece several weeks ago, and needed to revisit the concepts just now.

      Here’s to the beauty of simplicity! All the best to you and your efforts today! Go get those curlicues! :-)
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  9. Carmel says

    Love the quotes, Vaughn, especially the William Morris one. You’ve taught us all a thing or two today.

    I hadn’t realized I was an Arts and Craft writer. I only knew I liked things small and simple and cozy. (Which is probably why I knit hats and socks instead of sweaters and blankets – have yet to knit an oven mitt, and I’m not sure how I ever got myself into writing a novel!) I find my writing pared down and simple too. I hope that turns out to be a good thing.

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    • says

      Now my day is complete–a sock mention (there’s nothing quite as cozy and satisfying as a great pair of warm socks)!

      When we were building our current house (a bungalow–surprise, surprise) some of our friends and family remarked about how small we were making it (it’s about 1600′ without the porches). Back then (in the late 90s) bigger was better. No one understood. Now the not-so-big house is becoming a mini movement.

      In other words: stay true to yourself–even when it seems everyone wants the opposite, there will always be an audience for pared down and simple. All the best to you, Carmel, and let me know if you ever knit that (simple/cozy) mitt!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  10. Denise Willson says

    Great post, Vaughn.

    My childhood memories are buried in bits of woodchips and the smell of oak and homemade stain, me sitting on the workbench in my father’s shop while he created something from nothing. While other girls baked cookies, I built birdhouses.

    I’d never thought of it before, but you’ve spurred nostalgia today, and I’m thinking my time with my father in his shop had a little something to do with my love of creation, of writing. Thank you for that, for showing me.

    As fate would have it, my father is arriving today, to spend some quality time with his daughter and grandchildren. And, thanks to you, I know exactly what we’re going to do together. “Shotgun! We’re off to Home Depot!”

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth and (coming soon) GOT

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    • says

      Oh I love that image, Denise, of you building birdhouses as a girl. As a fellow hanger-outer in Dad’s workshop, I totally understand the nostalgia. And there’s just nothing like the smell of freshly cut wood. My favorites are western red cedar and Douglas fir, but oak has a wonderful aroma. I particularly like white oak (maybe because it smells a bit like fine wine, but that’s just me).

      As I age, I see my dad in my writing journey–his patience, and dedication to “doing things the right way, not the fast way.” Enjoy your time with your dad! Be sure to share your gratitude for that gift for me, too. I never had the chance to tell me dad, but I know he knows.

      Thanks for sharing your special memories and connection to the piece, Denise! You’ve really made me smile.
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  11. says

    Such a wonderfully grounded and grounding piece. And such a great analogy for a certain approach to writing — love it!

    I haven’t lived in a bungalow, but I went through an obsession with them while I was living in apartments in NYC. I’ve always loved the simplicity and honesty and connection to the earth of the style; I like to think that both my arts (dance and writing) have that quality, too.
    Natalie Hart´s last blog post ..Compassion for Jesus?

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    • says

      I didn’t know you’d spent time living in NYC, Natalie. New York is a great A&C state. But there is a lot of A&C in your native Eastern Canada, too, isn’t there?

      It’s funny, I didn’t know that first house was a bungalow, but in looking back at the cottages in the area I spent summers (Little Traverse Bay, in Northern Michigan), I can see the roots of my love of the style. And it’s quite entwined with my love of reading, as well (there was no TV up there!).

      Great take on the connection; and I can see how dance would fit the bill, as well! Thanks for sharing, Natalie!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  12. says

    Let me tell you, the only difference between being published and not being published is that you are published. Still hard as hell to craft ideas into shape, challenging to sit down everyday and push the rock up the hill while beating back self-doubt and insecurity. But then there’s the joy of having readers tell you that you kept them up all night and the satisfaction of having done “it” after so many years (20 in my case) of trying. Its the business of the joy is in the struggle, not in the result and we are all so lucky to be tapped to be writers.
    Tony Vanderwarker´s last blog post ..Tony Reveals How to Release One’s Inner Novelist – NPR Wisconsin

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  13. says

    I think the biggest misconception about genre is that it doesn’t take craft to write. That you can throw words on a page and it’s good enough because it’s genre. The thing is, and as I’m sure you know, to make good stories you need craft – no matter what genre/literary form you work with.

    Every time I sit down to work, I know precisely that the newest journey (newest work in progress) is only as good as I can learn new skills. It’s intimidating, how much I don’t know. I feel very fortunate to have the talented people around me that teach me by sharing their strengths and knowledge.
    Lara Schiffbauer´s last blog post ..Funny Friday Photos: Dogs and the Ood

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    • says

      Howdy, Stranger! The more I know, the more I realize the truth of your observation, Lara. The farther along I get, the better able I am to perceive how carefully crafted my favorite epic fantasy writers are in their approach, even to lengthy series work–which is often trivialized by “serious” readers and writers alike.

      I’m grateful as well, for the example and support of my fellows. Thanks for being one of them, my friend!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  14. says

    This is a beautiful post that deftly dissects a movement as it applies to so much more than architecture. I also appreciated this: “When I’m feeling down about a project or the state of my so-called career, the best things I can do are to take a long walk in nature, get back to the my roots as a human being, and then get back to work.” That is one of my most-trusted methods. I think I’m going to have to read this post a few times.
    Kathleen Cassen Mickelson´s last blog post ..EAT, WRITE, DIGEST: About Anniversaries

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    • says

      Hi Kathleen, I’m so glad the post resonated for you. I’m honored to be worthy of review. :-) As I said in one of the replies above, I need to review my own sentiments often, as well. Here’s to the grounding nature of nature walks! Thank you!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  15. says

    Well done, Vaughn. I really like the analogy between the Arts and Crafts movement and writing. Writers are craftsmen and craftsmen have a dedication to learning the trade and perfecting it. That takes time and a lifelong commitment to professional development. Building a house is very much like writing a book. You must have a strong foundation. Form must follow function and everything must hang together. I have no doubt that your novel will be stellar. Thanks for a terrific post.
    CG Blake´s last blog post ..Book Review: “On the Wild Coast,” by Patrick J. Lee

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    • says

      Hi Chris! You’ve taken the analogy to another level, as well. It’s funny, they say that imitation is a form of flattery, and that’s how I took it when a local builder copied the plans to our house (which we custom designed) in a nearby neighborhood. However, he picked a low, wet site, and as I watched it go up I noticed he used (in my opinion) lesser materials. Ten years on, there is a notable difference already. I’d prefer to strive for something lasting.

      Thanks so much for enhancing the conversation, and for the vote of confidence!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  16. says

    Perfect, Vaughn, perfect. I’ve long searched for a label (as much as I dislike them) that would describe my writing: Arts & Crafts Fantasy. Perhaps not flashy, but accurate. About four years ago I took a basic class in design, especially as it related to typography, and first learned about the Arts & Crafts movement. A great attraction was born, yet I never realized how much it had influenced my writing despite my fantasy society resembling the same time period. I labored for years on world building—and then set it in the background where it belongs. As majestic as the Tetons are to look at, the story was still about Shane.
    Christina Hawthorne´s last blog post ..Hartise Society: Gargoyles

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    • says

      Well, I say that’s a perfect response to my sentiments, Christina! It’s apparent how much time and thought you’ve put into your world-building. And I just love this: “…and then set it in the background where it belongs. As majestic as the Tetons are to look at, the story was still about Shane.” Bravo, my friend! I’m confident you are succeeding!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  17. says

    Obviously I’m not the only one to appreciate this thoughtful post and for whom the analogy to the Arts and Craft movement resonates deeply. Thank you! It’s interesting that Morris was very engaged in social justice. He exalted the beauty of function. Your post also reminded me of the Shakers, who found decoration both dishonest and prideful. This austerity led to fascinating solutions, like using asymmetry as a design element. You’ve really been an inspiration, like other commenters: I want to get back to writing now. :)
    Marialena´s last blog post ..Wordless: waiting for a train

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    • says

      I hadn’t considered the connection between the Shakers and the A&C movement, but it’s a solid one. Arts and Crafts aficionados also found much to be desired in American Indian artwork and the missions of California, as well as Japanese architecture. It’s an interesting melding pot, for sure. I’m so glad the post and comments (which have been so great!) inspired you today! Mission accomplished (sorry, no pun intended)!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  18. says

    Enjoyed your post – a lot! Coincidentally, just this morning I was reminiscing with a fellow writer about a couple of my favorite books of the 60s – Thoreau’s “Walden” and Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” – both of which are celebrations of nature and a simple life. In my recent move from the suburbs of cosmopolitan Vancouver to a ranch in the Cariboo region of BC, I think I was trying to get closer to “my roots as a human being”, as you put it.

    Early in my fiction writing, I had the intention of emulating other writers I admired, many of them acclaimed as literary writers within my genre (traditional mystery), but in time I let that go. Now my writing lets itself be shaped by the characters in my novels, most of whom are typical North American men and women – ordinary but nonetheless unique – trying to find everyday happiness, or to escape from unhappiness, just like the rest of us.

    “..the simplest and most natural way to emotional impact is through effective story.” Well said! Thank you for posting.
    Ruth Donald´s last blog post ..The Highway Mysteries

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    • says

      Hi Ruth, I think both Thoreau and Whitman were thoroughly entwined with the change of heart and mind that led to the Arts and Crafts movement. Thanks for bringing them up! They’re perfect additions to this conversation.

      I love B.C.! So beautiful. It sounds like you’re finding your way to simple beauty in your work, as well. Thank you for your kind praise. Wishing you all the best on your journey, Ruth!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  19. Lisa Threadgill says

    My brain is tired and I’m tired (dug out of 8 inches of snow this morning), so I don’t have the capacity to respond to this the way that I would like. All I can say is: Yes! Yes! Yes! And trust that you know me well enough to know what I mean.

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  20. Bernadette Phipps-Lincke says

    Love this post, V.

    It’s the journey not the destination that makes the story, and the journey unfolds in the beat of the characters’ hearts. It’s the writer’s job to hone open their soul to hear that heartbeat. Which was the whole point of the journey in the first place. That simple.

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  21. says

    I’m late to this Vaughn, but I love the analogy. And I can’t imagine a time when you weren’t an Arts & Crafts fan — it seems something you and Maureen were born into. I’ve always loved the movement for the reasons you describe — the attention to detail, the care in craftsmanship, the feeling that the project is an extension of nature, not in competition with it. That’s how I imagine your story, too.

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    • says

      You are always a welcome addition, my friend, whenever you are able to arrive. :-) Although I won’t discuss just how long it’s been since we found that first bungalow (cough, decades…), it does now seem like solid part of our identity. So I’m glad you have that impression, Liz. Your faith in me and my story gives me fortitude to keep striving. Thank you!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..Don’t Discount Your Courage

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  22. says

    Well met, Vaughn,

    “…beauty through simplicity of form…” I love that. One of the amazing things about art in writing is that what you see on the page is the polished surface–like the pottery higher on the page. Like woodworking, or perhaps like pottery, which I love, the artist starts with a rough hewn piece of wood or an unimpressive lump of clay, and you work it, and you work it and you work it. What you see in the end is simplicity of form, the result of hours, weeks, months, perhaps years of honing. And though simple, the process by which the wood or clay becomes art, becomes beauty, is anything but simple. It is the result of a truly gifted and practiced artist plying his or her craft. And what is art in writing but that which reveals to us our humanity.
    Thanks for a great article.

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    • says

      Great angle on the analogy, Pat, thanks! I recently went and toured Pewabic Pottery, a 110 year old pottery and tile-glazing house in downtown Detroit. I was struck by the sameness of the process. They continued to show us technology and processes that were completely unchanged since their inception. What they do is so relatively simple, but what they produce is SO beautiful.

      You’re right, it takes effort and dedication to make the pieces that way, and to produce less. But to have each piece, each tile, be so special and unique… And lasting. I’m glad they still go to the effort. Thanks again for enhancing the essay, Pat!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..The Arts & Crafts of Writing Fiction – Writer Unboxed Redirect

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  23. Priya Gill says

    Hi Vaughn,

    Like Liz, I am also late to arrive. Though I read the article early AM and it’s been playing in my head all day :-)

    Such a well researched and well written article. I loved the analogy. And you have included wonderful quotes. But if I had to pick a favorite line it would be “I am the work in progress”. So so true. When I started my writing journey I thought I had it all. So wrong I was. Now I see, there is so much to learn and incorporate and think. (Even my husband… finally …. admitted that writing is HARD work) and yet there is a joy in the effort and the aha moments that make every block, every moment of frustration, so worth it.

    Thank you for writing the article.

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    • says

      Oh Priya, my all-time favorite compliment for something I’ve written is: “It left me thinking.” Thank you!

      It’s funny looking back, how easy I thought it would be. And, really, how easy the first draft seemed. I thought I was just a natural. Time and gaining the distance to grasp the proper perspective shows us differently. Yes, this is hard! It’s the toughest gig I’ve taken on, and I’ve done some difficult things. Most of the battle takes place between the ears, though.

      I’m glad your husband has come around to seeing the truth of it. There’s perhaps no greater gift a writer, or any aspiring artist, can receive than the support of someone they love. You’re so right about it being worth it, and sharing it with a beloved spouse makes it all the sweeter. Thanks again, and have a great weekend!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..The Arts & Crafts of Writing Fiction – Writer Unboxed Redirect

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      • Priya Gill says

        Thanks Vaughn.

        I know the feeling of thinking that I am a natural by the ease with which I finished my first draft. Now four major edits later, I am still polishing. But the end does seem in sight, finally.

        You too have a great weekend.

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  24. says

    I’m late to this article too, but I wanted to say how much I love the analogy…is it even an analogy? Craft is key to art, all art including writing.

    I couldn’t agree more with Donald Maass’ manifesto:
    “Down with high-flown literature! Cast off genre servitude! The revolution is founded in authorial liberty. It regards story and art as equals.”

    Yes, let’s cast off genre and concentrate on the details…
    Claude Nougat´s last blog post ..Recovered Art: The Man Who Lived with a Gauguin 40 Years in his Kitchen

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  25. says

    Hey V,

    First off, let me say how much I enjoyed this article. You touched on my very nature as a lover of all things arts and crafts; a beholder of the beauty in the broken and cast-off six-pane window and craftsman of the functional mirror it becomes. And, might I add, it’s gorgeous (a DIY project I recently completed and am going to post on my blog).

    You may not know, but after two years studying civil engineering, I longed for more art and beauty in my curriculum (and in turn, my upcoming career path) and switched to architecture. Concerns of mere function did not appeal to me; I was attracted to function and form. Yeah, it had to work, but it had to be aesthetically pleasing, too. Beautiful, in fact, and I’m very meticulous about it.

    This extends to everything I do in life. It’s innate. As a matter of fact, it’s always frustrating to do a project with my dad because for him, it’s function only. Arg. Sure, it works, but hide it with a plant.

    You know, my career as a writer is still in a file as I enter this chapter of life, but I added that “W” to my name some time ago in a blog redesign: M.L. Swift, Writer. I needed a tangible carrot; something to visually see and strive for until the publishing part is a reality.

    For the time, I have a cast-off window sitting in a file waiting to become a mirror, however, it’s not time for that (I held on to the actual window for a decade before doing that project). It needs too much work and isn’t where I’m at right now. No, there’s an old crystal door knob that, with a little spit and polish and mounting, will make a great hat or coat hook.

    Vaughn, I really like how you see art, especially the art of writing, in all the things you do, because honestly, I do the same. The world is junk pile of tossed treasures. Recognizing and making something of them takes a true artist.
    ML Swift´s last blog post ..Redirect to “The Writing Nut” for Wednesday Writer’s Workspace with Nutschell

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    • says

      Even though I’ve considered you a friend for a long time, it’s great continuing to get to know ‘the real’ ML Swift. ;-) I didn’t know about the civil engineering or the architecture. Very coo, and it says a lot about you. As does the six pane window.

      Funny, my dad was much more worried about aesthetics than I used to be when he was alive, which drove him to distraction. I didn’t have the patience then. If it worked, good enough. I appreciate his drive to continue to find form beyond function now.

      I hear you about the adding of “W”riter to your name. And I get it. I absolutely support everyone who views it that way. FB is always asking me to add my occupation to my profile, but I steadfastly refuse. I’ve been writing fiction for ten years now (it’s official, started planning in ’03, but had words on the page in spring of ’04). But for me, the carrot is the lower case ‘w’. It keeps me striving to capitalize, or even use the ‘A’ word. ;-)

      Keep striving to find the gems, Mike! I know you have the right attitude and aptitude. You have the “W’ill to succeed! (See what I did there, with your capital W? ;-) Thank you, and have a great weekend, my friend!
      Vaughn Roycroft´s last blog post ..The Arts & Crafts of Writing Fiction – Writer Unboxed Redirect

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  26. says

    Great post. It’s all about the work. But my ego thinks not… I live a modest life. I’m not opposed to making money with my writing. It sure would be freelancing in advertising…
    Simone´s last blog post ..Book Reviews

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  27. Marcy McKay says

    Wow, Vaughn. I’d never heard the term “arts-and-crafts writer, but my first impression would’ve been something you find at Hobby Lobby. Your post was both lovely and thought-provoking. A great way to start my week. Thank you so much!

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  28. Marcy McKay says

    Thanks for responding, Vaughn. You’re a consistent commenter here @ WU and have great insights. Good luck on your epic fantasy trilogy and good luck to me in finding a new agent (mine left the biz).

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  29. says

    Wow, am I ever late to this one, V. I’ve been down a bit of a rabbit hole. I apologize.

    When I think of you toiling away over your computer, I think of someone working to craft a piece that is an instant classic. The metaphor, in this instance, seems a perfect one. Keep the faith, V.

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