Got Imagination and Skill?

Potter making a clay pot (iStockPhoto)“Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsperson?”

Have you ever participated in a creative writing class in which the instructor began with this question? It’s happened to me more than once. The question bugs me, because I believe it assumes a false dichotomy. All writing is a blend of art and craft.

A more useful distinction, I’d argue, is between imagination and skill. British playwright Tom Stoppard had this to say about those two qualities:

“Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.”

Stoppard’s wit is dry, certainly, but his point is well taken. Good writing finds an appropriate balance between both qualities. Whether a piece of writing is also a piece of art is for others to debate; the writer need simply be concerned about whether he or she has demonstrated the requisite skill and imagination for the task at hand. If so, then the writer can be satisfied — and so can the client.


Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.

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