‘Dump’ or ‘Craft’?

I’ve spent most of the last three months ‘dumping’ my thoughts onto the blank page, or in my case, blank computer screen. This is despite Louise de Salvo’s belief that we have a better chance of benefiting from

detailed, organized, compelling, vivid and lucid

(2001, p.49)

writing, otherwise known as ‘crafting’, than from simply writing what we feel.

I’ve been a ‘dumper’ for most of my life and owe a lot to the process. It helps me to: understand what is bothering me; clear my head; and constructively deal with my feelings, thoughts and anxieties.

But in my thesis, now almost five years old, I agreed with de Salvo. I asserted that autobiographical writing can be more healing if we reflect on our memories and turn them into readable, enjoyable, evocative material meant for public consumption. When I’m not stuck in a ‘dumping phase’ I can spend days and weeks ‘crafting’ my work, editing, reflecting on, and thinking through what I write. The result is occasionally  something I’m proud to share with others, and I find the crafting process as therapeutic as my ‘daily moan’.

So, which am I, a ‘Dumper’ or a ‘Crafter? Crafting is harder than dumping, but I’m not sure dumping is always beneficial. On the other hand, writing ‘Daily Pages’ is lauded by most writers as a preeminent example of ‘turning up at the page’, and a valuable source of raw material to shape into a polished piece of ‘creative’ writing.

In other words, a writer can, perhaps should, be both a ‘Dumper’ and a ‘Crafter’. The problem is, while writing my thesis, and more recently, my critical inner voice insisted I stop wasting time ‘Dumping’ and get serious about ‘Crafting’. Then, when I’m crafting a piece, my inner critic hisses, ‘This will never work,’ or, ‘why write a blog about dumping or crafting? Everyone knows about this, it will be boring, no one will read it. You are wasting your time.’

I was recently asked about blogging and gathering ‘likes’, the snare social media uses to keep us logged on-line. But what, exactly, is a ‘like’ worth and has it become a measure of self-worth? Can a ‘like’ substitute for ‘Well done,’ for an invitation to share coffee, or for a virtual chat about your blog? Is a ‘like’ less affirming than the ‘holy grail’ of a ‘comment’ because a comment implies a reader wants to engage with you on your topic or idea? And what are comments compared to high sales figures and literary prizes, bait that lures authors and novelists into believing they are the exemplars of the craft of writing?

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m not saying approval, credit and prizes are bad things but, to return to ‘dumping’ your feelings and problems on the page, I do suggest rereading these ‘rants’ can yield one of two insights: either the writer unwittingly created something remarkable and satisfying, or they are confronted by a vindictive, angry, suffering person who should either hide their aberrations and discontent or seek professional support.

Like writers, anyone is capable of being a demon and an angel, a saint and a sinner a ‘Dumper’ or ‘Crafter’. It depends on whether or not we choose to work on ourselves. The raw material we have to work with is the human creature we are. Sure, we can dump our rage on another person, as if they are a blank page forced to accept our negative thoughts, feeling and ideas. We can also ‘craft’ ourselves into a kind, affectionate, honest and honourable person, someone others want to engage with and by crafting the self it’s possible we can heal ourselves (and silence the inner critic). Crafting the self may also help us heal the world.

Dumper or Crafter or both? It’s up to you.

10 thoughts on “‘Dump’ or ‘Craft’?

  1. Hi again Janet,
    Hope you are well. Since my last reply I seem to have done some crafting. I have revised notes on journalling & memoir writing, I am compiling a scrapbook from my last Gambian trip incorporating hard copy photos and notes. I have started a Microsoft word document of my Gambian journey to include my trips with a view to looking at themes to incorporate in my memoir. I have added my work photo scrapbook, notes and work memoir and plan to incorporate my lifeline to the complete memoir with appropriate themes.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Janet,
    Lovely to read such a reflective and informative post as always. Arrival of your post in my inbox yesterday is quite timely for me on my writing journey. Will revisit and reflect.
    Take care

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      1. Hi Janet,
        Sent you a message this morning but managed to lose it.
        I think at times I am generally losing it!
        Hope you are well.
        This week I collected hard copies of my Gambian photos which I am sticking in a scrap book in date order . There is space to write at the side to use as an aide memoir along with my journal to incorporate into my Gambian journey Microsoft document which I have decided to write in reverse order.
        I will do the same with my work reflections and photo scrapbook.
        I will revisit photo journal I compiled when mum was 90 years and perhaps as to start on pre nursing days.
        This period follows a time of stagnation & frustration. 🙂💁🏻

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  3. One of my favourite all time authors was Laurie Lee. The guy was an incredible Wordsmith. As far as I know, he only wrote autobiography from his own life experiences. However, he could move me to tears as well as laughter just with a few words about an apparently ordinary event in his life. Now was he a crafter or a dumper? I would argue they are one and the same and equally as valid. Depending on the reader, they could be moved far more by the dumped words than they might be by the well crafted words.😊

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    1. Well, there are ‘readerly’ expectations for all genres. Most readers of memoir and autobiography expect the ‘life story’ be true, or at least verifiable. As for reading ‘dumped’ material, most readers, I believe, would soon be bored with grammatical errors, mistakes in punctuation, repeated information, mixed metaphors and the like. What I mean by ‘crafting’ is the process of weeding out the errors, glitches and self indulgent passages and respecting the reader by giving them the best possible work the writer is capable of. I’ve not read any of Lee’s work, I’ll have to check him out. Thanks for your comment, it’s good to swap ideas about writing with you.

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  4. I am definitely both. When I’m journaling, I’m dumping. When I playing with a story or poem, I’m crafting.But journaling is less frustrating to me than crafting. I lack imagination to go far in crafting. I have the writing skills, but not the mind of a crafter. Very cool post, Janet.

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