I'll admit that when Glimmer Train asked me to write a short essay on craft, I hesitated. I enjoy conversations about these matters with other writers, friends, concerned citizens, but I certainly do not feel qualified to bestow any specific writerly insight upon a greater audience. I have only my own preoccupations.
But I do find such preoccupations important, so I'll at least share this much: The two things that have sustained me in my writing (which until recently has been mostly a private, even secretive activity) are my evolving obsessions with various works of literature in relationship to my life, and my own subjective discoveries regarding craft. To put it another way, the most important and lasting lessons I've learned about writing were not imparted to me, but rather won through the long, circular process of reading closely, putting words to paper (or failing to put words to paper), and doing my best to return everything to life. Many of these personal lessons, which I am constantly revising, would likely sound simplistic, or even absurd, if I tried to explain them here.
But they make sense to me, and I believe in nurturing that kind of particularity. As much as I have benefited from and trust in the mentor/apprentice relationship and as much as I am inspired by craft-insights from writers I admire, I think the final reality of the writing life is that when we step aside from the bustle to write we are ultimately on our own, and we need more than writing advice to guide us. We need the confidence of our own revelations, and I truly feel there is no shortcut to such things.