Last days of school. Given that it will be my last week of teaching at this school I decided to talk about what I believe are the two most significant requirements for good writing.
- You need to have something to say.
This first element of good writing is not easily obtained in a classroom setting. Classes and teachers give you the tools to begin to ask questions, but they cannot teach you what to say. If you get into that area, you’re moving into indoctrination and I’m not a big fan of proselytizing. Having something to say is really one’s personal journey in life and one’s ability to question, to be curious. It’s wrapped up in one’s desire to seek an emotional truth and understanding of one’s existence, one’s purpose, one’s raison d’être, if you will.
English class can give you the tools to think about that stuff, teach you how to ask questions, but you won’t come to your emotional truth in English class. If you do, that would be fascinating in and of itself, but I tend to think emotional truths are more likely to strike in communion with the natural world or in quiet contemplation (though I am sure some would argue truths can happen in loud nightclubs).
The second requirement to good writing:
- You need to have an understanding of basic writing skills.
This is the stuff you learn in class! That’s what the study of English literature and writing can accomplish.
A. Keep the reader in the dream
Know the rules of writing (and after knowing, you can break them) so that the reader believes in where you are taking them.
B. Know your voice matters
Often if you have not seen someone who looks like you do or who has had your experiences appear in a book or onscreen, you have a problem knowing that you have a right to narrate your story. You do. You’re just a pioneer. Get used to this. For many women and people of color this is challenging–to put themselves out there and tell a story. They often want to hide behind stories that were already told. These stories may be good, but they are different than the stories that the person would normally tell if she wasn’t so self-conscious.
The more you can imagine, the more potential you have to create and invent, and this makes for a more interesting story. It makes for a more interesting person which makes a more interesting story.
D. Read. Period.
The more you read, the better you will write. Read for fun. Not for misery.
That’s it! You can write well! Just keep repeating these ideas to yourself and following through with them. You will get the results you want:) I promise.
We Create the Story of our Lives.