Teaching and Learning to Write

Write in order to see a reflection of your own mind. Write to love the self and to know the self. Write to process all emotions fair or foul. Write to witness who and what you believe. Write for your future self, to help her look forward and backward too for that matter.

I love structure, and I love the play of writing. Like a bricoleur, I enjoy the process of re-appropriation of text. Having rules helps me to become obsessive over the piece. As a writer, I procrastinate. Rules help me remain engaged. Often in my personal writing I have choose arbitrary rules to follow. This has been an essential component of my work as a sculptor and as a songwriter. In a process similar to that of the ready-made artist I create using arbitrary rules. This helps me, acting as a focal point on the horizon like a buoy aids the sailor. When multiple pieces are constructed following a set of prescribed rules they become a body of work. They inform one another, they ridicule one another, and they build each other up. Together they reveal more to me. Without the rules I flounder and flit, never arriving at any true depth, never creating with sustainable or recognizable techniques.

I fritter my writing away, a school girl doodling. Are the curlicues pretty? I have too many big ideas and without regulation they amount to a jumble of pipe dreams that are not guiding buoys to any self except perhaps as examples of what not to do.

Write about what you love or what you hate. Writing should be hot or cold as Revelation 3:16 of the King James Version recommends for man. “So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” Tepid writing is the worst. Writing about reading, writing about the reasoning and psychology behind other artists’ endeavors is great fun for me. I adore being in the critic’s chair. Ask yourself what you enjoy writing? I enjoy the media review. Specifically, I consider psychological and physical violence as an opportunity to examine melodrama, psychologically violent crime shows, tragedy, and satire. This type of culturally based criticism is my favorite and as a film buff I have many friends and colleagues who entertain conversations and blogs in this genre of writing as a form of entertainment. Know what you like to write and think about.

“It is wisdom to know others; It is enlightenment to know one’s self.” Lao-Tzu The Way of Life

We can write about blood; write boldly about blood. There is no need to fear coloring outside of the lines. Red, red, red the passion of a story is the focus of life. Think about, talk about, what makes this story?

Fear not the taboo, but shun the cliché. The cliche is my downfall. I am afraid that I am writing useless drivel. I am afraid that I will die and that death will be the ultimate confirmation that I am no one. There is the evidence, ashes in an urn with nothing of consequence to accompany them. So we write like men of old carving into the cave wall. We write.

The difficulty is making the page bleed and cry. The difficulty is to create
life. What is easy? It all feels easy as I am playing and maintaining the sense
of play, even when that play is pensive and exhausting. It is in the reflection,
the correction that I find the difficulty. Comb through the text like a hair full
of nits. Extract the blood sucking parasites. There is a shame, there where
rejoicing should be, a shame that comes as I practice the tedious discovery of my inadequacies. Later, if my text is clean and shiny then it can go out in public and socialize without being shunned.

The representation of violence in literature is vital to the success of stories
from all times. Conflict is the blood in the heart of a story. Without conflict the author is back to the curlicues on the page. People want their stories to have hearts that beat with the blood of human experience. People want to see a dramatization of sex and sweat and tears, dreams realized and dreams crushed.

Teaching this begins with seeing it, but it is unclear if it is possible to
“teach” a writer to do this. That is not the teacher’s job. Or is it? I am glad that it is called English Language “Arts” and not English Language “Sciences.”


About m.a. wood

writer, thinker, musician, teacher
This entry was posted in essay, prose, teaching the writer. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Teaching and Learning to Write

  1. amabear says:

    i always like hearing how other people feel about the written word. i much prefer it to the spoken word, though i don’t know what that says about me. a lot to think about here. thanks.


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