Honing Your Craft

For over a week now, I’ve been thinking back to the words shared by one of the authors I saw at the recent Boston Book Festival. I attended the session, “Graphic Novels: Drawing the Story” to hear the three well-established cartoonists share their thoughts on their work, their genre, books and cartoons in society today, and lots more. The panelists, Seth, Alison Bechdel, and Daniel Clowes, didn’t disappoint.

The bit I keep remembering, though, is something that “The Cartoonist Known as Seth” (because this really isn’t his name) shared when addressing a question from the audience on the subject of the democratization of art, writing, cartooning, and all other sorts of creativity, thanks to the internet. There are countless sites where people can draw pictures, make cartoons, publish their books, post their work online for all the world to see. You could tell that it was hard for a group of creative people to suggest squelching such creativity in others, yet this is kind of what they did. And the reason why is the thought I keep coming back to (I’m paraphrasing):

“There is something to be said for being a professional. There is something about honing a craft, putting in all of the time to become very good at something.”

This line of thinking follows that of my previous post. In this world where we have so much free access to so many things, where it’s simply so easy to slap up words and drawings and photos and videos and musical recordings and … you name it … do we risk watering down our idea of what makes someone a professional? What makes something professional?

Don’t get me wrong, I see plenty of advertisements for plenty of “professional” television shows, movies, music and books that I’d pretty quickly dismiss as awfully amateurish (if not simply unnecessary) and the cliche “starving artist” does exist for a reason. But as I ruminate on the idea of honing a craft, there is one thing that stands out – time. It takes time to hone a craft. It takes years of discipline and practice to become really good at something. I can’t help but wonder if this is a good thing.

Tonight I’ll be heading out to another open mic. I’ve been performing at open mics in town for about a month now. Believe it or not, I’ve yet to become Alison Krauss. Maybe it will take at least 6 weeks.

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