Things I Learned in Writing Class this Semester (Part III)

November 30, 2010 in Blogging, Novel, On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Here is hopefully the final part of “Things I Learned in Writing Class this Semester”.  Parts I and II can be found here and here.

Read, read and read

Without a doubt, I’ve read more this year than any other year of my life.  I’m still not a prodigious reader like those who can read a book a day, or 3 books a week.  I just can’t focus for that long in a single block, and there’s always too many other things I want to do. 

But what I have discovered is that the old adage is definitely true — to be a writer you have to be a reader.  The more you read the better you write.  This semester I’ve read a lot of non-fiction.  For one writer I interviewed, I read about 50 of his articles (some 5000-6000 words) in the space of a week or so.  This is in addition to all the weekly readings we had to do for class and my leisure readings on the side.

One slight problem I had was that if I kept reading the same person, I would tend to start emulating that writer’s style and voice — but after a while I realised that this was because I hadn’t really found my own yet.  Once I started feeling more comfortable with my own writing, that no longer became an issue.

The bigger problem was that I started to become a different type of reader — one that was always looking out for the writer’s style, trying to identify what is good and what is bad in the writing, so as to improve my own.  This was particularly the case when I was reading for my editing class.  It’s good to be analytical but doing too much of it drains you and takes away the fun from the story.

I guess it’s a matter of separating your leisure reading from your professional one, but it takes more discipline than I’ve developed thus far.

Write, write and write

You can read all you want, but improvements don’t manifest until you start writing.

I’ve written more in the last two years than I could have ever imagined — first of course on blogs and websites, and also the first draft of my novel, and then for the writing course itself and for publication.

I haven’t found writing for fun, for assessment and for publication too different to be honest.  I try and approach it all with the same level of professionalism and enthusiasm.  It’s been fascinating reading over my stuff over the years and seeing how I’ve progressed and changed as a writer.  A lot of it is still crap but occasionally I can see a glimmer of hope, a spark, a moment of clarity — and that keeps me going through the times I struggle (which is often).

But yeah, it’s a matter of writing, writing and writing some more.  The only way you’re going to improve.  In my mind (usually when I wake up in the middle of the night), I can come up with some awesome stuff, or so I think, but when I try and replicate it the next morning on the page, it’s never nearly as good.  Maybe if I keep writing I’ll be able to do it some day.

Time flies when you’re having fun

It’s been one of the shortest years I can remember — since March, the everything has just flown by.  Interestingly, as a lawyer, I used to read and write all day as well, but it bored me to death, stressed me out and made the days feel like they would drag on forever.  Now writing creatively, it’s the complete opposite — I’m always engaged, I find it cathartic, and the days would always end too quickly.

What I’m trying to say is that time flies when you are having fun and you’re doing the things you want to do in life.  I don’t know where this road will lead me, and frankly, it scares me sometimes, but right now I’m just trying to enjoy every moment while it lasts.

Next year will be different and bring with it a new set of challenges.  Can’t wait.