Sunday, January 10, 2016
A Few Thoughts About Writing
Judy on January 2, 2016, with new wood bin gift from Jim and Dawn Shamp. It now keeps my firewood dry. Thanks!
A Few Thoughts To Encourage My Writing Students from Judy Hogan [I've been teaching creative writing for 42 years.]
1. A writer is one who writes.
2. There are only two rules that I have found for good writing: (1) hold the reader’s attention and (2) make your writing vivid, so other people can be there, experience what you have experienced. Your characters should come off the page; your images should help us see and understand what you mean.
3. All creative writing has to do with feelings. We begin with our own, whether we write non-fiction or fiction. “It takes as much courage as talent to be a good writer.” Charles Edward Eaton
4. Conflict is hard in life but always interesting to read about. Put it in your writing.
5. Write like the Oriental painters painted. First, they looked for a long time at the scene they wanted to paint; then they painted it in a few swift brush strokes. Imagine in your mind what you want to describe and then put down what you see, hear, smell, etc.
6. Per Henry Fielding and before that, Horace: “The author who will make me weep must first weep himself.” If you laugh while you write something, or cry, the likelihood is that the reader will also laugh or cry.
7. Write as you talk, naturally. “Never use words you wouldn’t, in the stress of some emotion, actually say.” Ezra Pound
8. You can break any rule if you can get away with it.
9. Honesty may be what makes one writer great and another merely good.
10. Read good work, especially classics of the past and present, work that does new things for the first time or work that does the job the very best that it has been done. (Pound’s categories of Inventor and Master)
11. All writing helps: diary, letters, essays, grants, newspaper stories. It is all working with words to find the ones that do the job the best. The more you write, the better.
12. Nurture your muse or unconscious. It is the source for most great passages and lines in literature, for images, too. Learn technique, but then forget it, and let the Muse speak.
13. Write first and criticize second. Your mind will gradually learn to take out the weak words, trite phrases, dead metaphors. But don’t worry while you write.
14. See it as a process. See yourself as one of a large company of dead and living writers. None of us knows how important we may be, but every human effort to record and say something intelligent about human experience is valuable. We don’t know (per Virginia Woolf) whether it matters for hours or centuries, but the main thing is to “write what you wish to write.” And learn how to do it well before you put it out there.
15. Let writing be your favorite thing to do! Look forward to doing it, treasure doing it, see it as pleasure, not pain. Set aside ritual time in which to do it.
Some books that have helped me: Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, Carolyn Heilbrun’s Writing a Woman’s Life; Soren Kierkegaard’s “The Difference Between an Apostle and a Genius” in The Present Age; Henry James’s The Art of the Novel; Ezra Pound’s ABC of Reading; T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent”; Joyce Cary’s The Horse’s Mouth; Jacques Maritain’s Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry.