Wednesday, December 13, 2006

More on Learning to be a Writer

First, the Really Nice Person of the Day is Roseanne Dowell, who pointed out

Let's Say Thanks, a website that sends cards to the troops over the holidays. Pop by; it's free, and it's a small way to say thanks for putting their life on their line, whether or not you support the war.

Remember how I raved about Francine Prose's great book, Reading Like A Writer? Well, I was at Barbara Kingsolver's site, and I stumbled across this little bit about what Kingsolver learned from Prose:

I spoke of taking a class from Francine Prose in which I learned "about ten basic rules for writing fiction." Well, I exaggerated. From Francine I remember learning three specific, helpful things that might qualify as rules. They were:

  • 1.) Your first sentence (or paragraph) makes a promise that the rest of the story (or novel) will keep.
  • 2.) Give your reader a reason to turn every page.
  • 3.) Keep a very large trash can beside your desk.

I keep learning and learning from that book, and from Francine Prose. She must be one hell of a teacher. Because of her, I can't stop reading "like a writer" and learning TONS from everything I read. A whole world has opened up to me, and I'm not exaggerating!

Speaking of great teachers, every adult who strives to master an artistic skill should read this little book, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard.

If there's one thing I notice in teaching students from littlehood to adulthood, it's that the older we get, the more we get in our own way. Month by month, we add more obstacles to ourselves, through our insecurities and self-doubts. That's even the most confident of us. If we embrace the spirit of a child, with a child-like trust in both ourselves and our instructors, then we will learn much easier.

Leonard talks about finding the joy in the journey and loving every moment on the plateau of learning. He's an aikido instructor, but his writing applies to all art, even athletics. Very inspiring!

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