on teaching writing

This is a continued response to dev’s stuff on writing over at livejournal, as mentioned and linked in the last post

Writing, as with any creative, is an exercise in putting yourself on the line regardless of whether or not you’re “good enough.” For me… I create not because I am great, but because I feel like a much more sane human bring when I am creating. I do not create for the greater glory of me, so it doesn’t matter whether what I do is “excellent” or “crap.” I have a question for you: why do you write? Think about it. I think you write because it’s something you do, because it’s something that moves you.

I talked to my friend Andre yesterday about writing and learning to write. He reminded me of something that is very true. Creative writing is difficult to teach, if unteachable. You want to learn conventions and organizational skills that I can teach, but the actual creative process is something we cultivate internally. (Don’t worry, no matter what you are thinking right now, you ARE creative) The other thing to know is that there are as many ways to write as there are writers. I can give you ideas and directions, but you have to know that the process is not “one size fits all.” Some people find some things useful, some people find other things useful.

The conclusion the chat with Andre was that there are two main things that you can do to learn to write. Everything else you do may be worthless, but these two things cannot be done without. They are required and needed for every good writer:

1. You must read a lot.
2. You must write a lot.


Everything else is secondary. These are the two very main things to know about writing. You have to do it, and you have to read it in order to get better. You may not write perfectly the first time around, but just the act of practicing is helping you to learn. You DO need to learn to turn off the critic in your head so that you can write more. This is also pretty important. The other thing to realize is that things are not “done” the first time around. There is the initial usually crappy initial write process, and then a refining process. Rarely does something come out beautiful on the first write.

That’s certainly my introduction. Now, let’s take a look at the things you want to learn:

many grammatical nit-picky points: these are good things to want to learn, however this kind of formatting stuff is a snap to learn, just a matter of remembering what you’re supposed to do. Really, for me, it took printing myself out a reference guide to nail it into my brain. These more technical points, while not unimportant, are not going to hold you back, so I want to put them aside for a second.

You’re more craft related issues interest me greatly (and I’ve put a more positive spin on many):

How to write tight
How to write long without losing things (I’m curious… without losing what?)
How to not make things perfect-worldy (you mean in an alternate world? or this one?)
How to write dialogue (this one if FUN to teach)
How to not let things fall apart (in other words, probably how to plan ahead and know what in the world I’m doing)
How to make things flow.
How to use description.
How to develop characters.
How to keep a story going, figure out a plot, etc.
How to think of something to write in the first place.

I will be very happy to help you with this stuff. I think it would be a good idea to come up with a place to DO this (I suggested a multiple user blog on eveninghawk.com, but I’m partial to that because I own the space and I know there’s plenty of it, and I like having things to tinker with). What do you think? Is this something you want? This is certainly something I think will be a lot of fun to work on. I have really strong thoughts on writing, and I hope to bring in many other “writer” folks for thoughts/contributions while fielding your needs as a student. The ball is in your court, and I hope you’ll rise to the challenge. (or, as we said in fencing tournaments… I’ve thrown down the glove. Let’s see if you accept.)

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