Saturday, June 16, 2012

Teaching Yourself the Craft

By Keith N Fisher

My grandmother made wedding cakes. It was one of the many ways my grandparents made a living together. Grandpa was a hard working farmer and traveling salesman. Grandma was a hard working farmers wife and cake maker.

At one time, grandma had the recommendation of caterers and wedding planners. Some of her business came through word of mouth and she had several portfolio picture books brides could look through in order to make decisions.

I’m not sure when the world turned to fondant, but my grandmother decorated the old fashioned way. She sat for hours with frosting bags making string loops. She made frosting roses with the speed of a machine. Each cake was a work of art. She was master of her craft.

Grandma made wedding cakes for all of her older grandkids, as well as her nieces and nephews. Many times she would have four huge cakes going at once in different stages, and we had great conversations while she worked on them.

As far as I know, Grandma never had any formal training in her craft. She taught herself how to make the decorations. My grandma got started when her grandma didn’t have time to make the cake for a family wedding. She asked my grandma to make it and nobody knew until years later. After that, grandma learned from the work of others and taught herself an enviable craft.

You don’t see many wedding cakes these days, decorated in the old ways. Fondant and plastic are the mediums of choice. Even the applesauce and spice cakes have given way to other kinds. It still takes time and a little talent to master the craft, but I think the world has lost a beautiful art form through evolution and lack of knowledge.

The writing craft is like any form of art. Even with formal training, the artisans must practice and teach themselves to form words and place them in a coherent and meaningful way.

Learning the craft of writing is simple. Just glean what you can from others, then sit down and practice. In the book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell claims it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become perfect in everything. How many words does that convert to?

Good luck with you writing---see you next week.

No comments: