Papermaking and Writing…Not a Bad Metaphor

I was thinking yesterday that papermaking is a pretty good metaphor for writing.


First you gather stuff.  Paper requires a collection of shredded paper (old bills, junk mail, what have you).  Writing requires a collection of experiences, observances, research and what have you.


Then you get it wet and blend.  This is self explanatory for papermaking.  Blenders work great.  Water and shredded old stuff piled into a blender.  Mix until it forms slurry of the right consistency.  For writing, it is the subliminal process of percolating, gestating, or composting…pick the term you like best; a catalyst to take all the stuff, break it down, and mix it up well.


When the slurry is of the right consistency, you can add color via dye or even construction paper.  In writing, this could be an assignment slant or a spark of inspiration.


The slurry is poured or dipped onto a screen within a frame the same way a writer fills a page with words…evenly and consistently.


The water drains out through the screen.  At this stage, you can add pressed flora, dust with sparkles (or even spices!) or create texture.  For the writer, this process is akin to completing the first draft.


When dry enough, the paper sheet is set to dry…and the writing is set aside.  When the process is completed, the paper is trimmed, squared off, and made ready for use in a project or for writing.  The trimming and making ready is the final revision of the written work.


In both cases, you come out with something new and useful that you did not have before.  Mistakes are made.  You learn from them and throw the sheet or finished piece back in the bag or compost heap to be used again.  Sometimes the paper comes out with unexpected beauty.  Writing can often surprise the writer with clarity and rich prose.


Making paper requires tools and methodical work.  So does writing.  You get better sheets with practice.  And so your writing improves with practice. Substitute grammar for a shredder and thought for the blender.  See what I mean?


As a paper maker and a writer, the comparison makes sense to me.  When one area is flagging, I can use what I know from the other to breathe life into it again.  Both crafts are best approached with openness to the process.  Perhaps that’s why I enjoy both.  The one major difference that makes me a full-time writer but a casual paper maker is that writing can be done anywhere and any time with pen and paper.  Papermaking requres equipment and prep work that doesn’t transport near as well!


All things considered, not a bad metaphor at all.


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