Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing: A Loooooooong Apprenticeship

In the traditional meaning: "apprenticeship" became prominent in medieval Europe with the emergence of the craft guilds. The standard apprenticeship lasted seven years, from age 14 to 21, for example. [Back then you died at 40, so there wasn't time for career burnout.]

I like to use the word apprenticeship to describe writing, because unless one is enormously freakishly talented at a disgustingly young age, [see The New Yorker's "Writers under 40" ] writing takes years of disciplined writing BIC* to get to a place where you sort of know what you're doing. A disciplined schedule, etc. etc. Sweat, howling pain.

Sort of like a blacksmith in the 1300's.

And once you know what you're doing, you know what you're doing wrong, so you have to learn to be kind to yourself, and patient, even as you squeeze your discouraged/lazy/weary self with an iron grip and shake and say get back to work. 

I don't know exactly where this is leading , except to say I thought of the loooong apprenticeship yesterday when I lead the Writing Room's Community Writing Workshop, and one of the 14 students asked how long it takes to learn to write. [They were a diverse group--from college age to retired.] A trick question. You don't want to discourage new--or returning--writers, but it's fair to say it's a long apprenticeship, darlin' so get cracking.

Which reminds me, too, of one of my favorite quotes, this one from Martin Luther King: The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.

Which, among many meanings, reminds one that patience is a virtue.


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