Writing As Sculpture 1

I was struck today by how similar the writing process is to what I imagine the work of craftspeople who deal with tangible media like clay, wood or stone to be.

I was brainstorming with a client of mine about her work.  She was in the place people I work with dream of arriving—a draft manuscript.

She likened the four months of whittling her mass of pages into a structured book, to the sculpting process. She felt she had taken what was at first an unexceptional piece of material, (granite perhaps since we are in Ontario)…and she could see how it had become art, how its shape had emerged as she edited and revised, edited and revised and polished. I couldn’t leave this delicious metaphor alone. 

For Erica, what at first was material without a distinct shape, identity or discernible features now had shape, nuance and voice.

To arrive at the art, she needed to arrive a responses to some guiding questions..she needed to write first, and leave the book to figure out what it was going to be until later. 


from first gouges with chisels and mallet

There she sat, manuscript in her lap knowing these things.

What is your book about? She had an answer to that.

What do you want your book to do? She could respond to that.

Who do you want the reader of the book to be? She had conquered that one too.

The writing process is akin to the ‘truth-to-materials’ principle in art. (See part two of this Writing as Sculpture series).  Begin with the writing and let the book emerge as it will… is as ‘truth-to-materials’ artists respond to the unique properties of the material to discover what the piece will be.

If you do the writing…including the rewriting, editing, reworking, polishing, cutting and pasting…the form of the book will reveal itself. 

Here at pattimhall.com and on our social media, when you try an #inspiringmoment writing cue you are beginning the sculptor’s “roughing out” process. You make your first early gouges into the block of wood on your studio table. Words, paragraphs and early draft pages are chips in the stone or rock. More pages, more marks in the material as you follow a beautiful grain or work to respect a vivid vein.

We brainstorm, we listmake, we draft, we revise, edit, polish and revise again. 


Granite rock

becomes a bear, 


to the rasps and rifflers and files…

becomes a wolf,

becomes a rabbit,

becomes a dove.


And it soars.


my gratitude to sculptor, coach and insightful, generous friend Michael Trotta for advice on all pieces in the Writing as Sculpture series and for the use of his work-in-progress photographs displayed with the blog posts.  You can find out more about Michael Trotta at www.sagefireinstitute.com. Let him know I sent you. P

Writer. Book coach. Collaborator.

I help exceptional coaches and thought leaders go from idea to book. Author of Loving Large, available April 2020, pre order now on Amazon.

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