Craftsmanship is like archaeology

I used to think of myself as a passable writer, until I wrote more often. Writers have to say what they think and have their readers think the same thing, while navigating the complex jungle of linguistic cognition.

First there are the basic rules – about using the correct grammar and style, favouring simpler words over complex ones, and making one’s writing honest, descriptive and vivid.

Then there is the rhythm underlying each sentence. Writers often juggle synonyms and adjectives until they create a crisp cadence or hit upon a serendipitous alliteration. All of that, while respecting the subject-verb-object order, which favours active constructions over passive ones.

With all of these nuances, we haven’t even departed from the construction of single sentences. All writers, from bestseller novelists to the ones who draft your refrigerator’s instruction manual, are storytellers. Sentences and paragraphs that follow each other need to tell our readers a compelling story, that help their readers climb higher on a ladder. The moment a rung is missing, their readers fall off and do not return.

And through that soliloquy, I have merely dusted the surface. The more I write, the more I know how much more there is to the craft of writing. I wager that any craftsman would something similar about their craft as well.

Craftsmanship, like archaeology, is the art of uncovering one layer of a craft, only to expose two more that are hidden.

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