Writing vs. crafting — “doing my autobiography”
So there I am, watching a baseball game. I thought it was the Mets vs. the Nationals but the contest quickly turned into Writing vs. Crafting.
One of the announcers started talking about a long-ago incident and then explained, “It’s been on my mind because I’m doing my autobiography now.”
Anything strike you as odd about that sentence?
(I guess I gave it away in the title of the post.)
On the one hand, I’m grateful for the announcer’s honesty—as opaque as it is. Clearly he—like many a baseball player before him—has hired a ghostwriter. No shame in that. But that leaves us with this extremely odd sentence:
I’m doing my autobiography.
Stories about “doing” rather than “being” provide a much richer experience for your reader. But when I create those stories, the verb I reach for is “write.” I write blog posts, speeches, books. I don’t “do” them.
He could have said “I’m working on my autobiography.” That’s true enough, whether or not he’s writing every word.
Writing vs. crafting
I think I object to “doing” also because it somehow makes the act of writing sound like, I don’t know, building a cabinet. “I’m doing some woodworking in the basement.” “I’m doing some collaging these days.”
Is writing a craft? Well, I guess we call it that sometimes. I often craft speeches for my clients—yes, I use the verb to blur things. I don’t want to take too much credit for the words that come out of my clients’ mouths, even if I did write every one.
Playwrighting—I still remember the lecture my Playwrighting teacher gave us the first day of his class. It’s memorable not just for what he said but because it was pretty much the only thing even approaching a lecture that we heard in the entire semester. He very carefully explained the spelling of the thing we were about to undertake. That it’s “wrighting” not “writing” because we are crafting something.
But playwrighting is a participatory sport, at least once you get a director and a bunch of actors involved. Book-writing tends to be much more solitary. Unless, of course, you’re working with a ghost—and then the ghost puts in the bulk of the alone time.
Look, there’s nothing wrong with crafting. And nothing wrong with hiring a ghost—unless you lay all the blame on the ghost for your own mistakes. But please don’t “do” writing. Just write. Or work with a writer—either way, I’m happy.