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Wednesday, May 16, 2018
The Craft of Writing
I've been told that talented writers don't need to take writing classes. "If a person has talent, he shouldn't need to study writing." Well, I disagree.
A person might be talented in visual arts - painting and drawing - but he needs help to learn about the colors and kinds of paint, the brushes he might need if he is painting a miniature instead of an 18 x 20 canvas. He might get this information from someone in a store or a friend, but somewhere he will need some help in the craft of painting.
Back in 1976, I decided to follow a goal of becoming a painter. I had not done any painting, so I found the perfect teacher for me. Her name was Verna. She was a fabulous teacher and I learned how to use oil paints, to use a fan brush, to use tools other than brushes for painting, how to create shimmering water and so much more. I enjoyed my classes and also enjoyed painting scenes from our farm in south Georgia.
Yes, talent is important, but it also takes time and perseverance to learn how to write. In my classes, I help my students make their stories entertaining as well as informative for the readers. How many want to read a book filled with facts that doesn't entertain us as well.
Two prompts I give my students to motivate them to write involve sketching. First I ask them to list all the houses they remember living in and then choose one to visit in detail. They draw an outline of the house and then draw in the rooms, just boxes on paper. The student goes through the house and in each space he notes the memories that come to him. In the kitchen he writes notes on who he sees there and what he smells and hears in that room. He goes on through this house and each room provokes memories of people and events that happened to him at a certain age.
One drawing like this will bring on a flood of memories that beg to be told. My mother is gone now, but I can see her in the kitchen making biscuits. I can see and smell the food, hear the radio playing in the other room just loud enough for Mother to keep up with the game show.
To be a good writer one must read, and I suggest read what you like to write. After taking classes, we learn to read in a different way. When we begin to read like writers we see so many things in books that surprise us, that open our eyes to what the author is saying, and that we remember.
Wherever you live, try to find a good writing teacher and good classes where you can grow and expand your own work. Ask at the library or a local college. We need the right tools to write well. Sometimes taking one class will motivate a writer to jump in and begin that novel or memoir she has always wanted to write.