Someone who has a blog I sometimes tune in to wrote something about teaching people to write and got a bit of negative response. I too chimed in in a civil way, and gave him the following feedback, since he seemed to feel there were not useful books on writing, even by established writers. I don’t agree for a variety of reasons mentioned below. I realized what I said might have a lot of relevance to those struggling to get their writing going. This is what I wrote:
I am taking time from a busy day to write this (I am graduating tomorrow from a self-designed university program called ‘The Psychology of Creative Expression’), so if this is not perfect enough for you, I apologize in advance. It is an attempt to make a difference, and I ask you to think again about some of the things you sent to all of us and came to our personal email.
First of all there are many many fine writers out there who do not get published in the now a days 500 page format with specific plot lines. You are talking about teaching people how to write being impossible, but I hate to tell you it is the publishers themselves these days who want formula style writing to a good extent. I doubt that Dostoevsky would succeed today. Furthermore, as yourself, many people are now self-published on-line, so what do you consider to be a “viable” piece of work? I am not sure of who is it who will make that judgment in your considerations?
It seems you have not been able to find any writing books useful. What a pity or is it that you want to idolize every word someone says hook line and sinker and expect something not quite possible. Because in the most magnificent pieces of writing I have found out there, there are still parts that don’t sit comfortably in my corner of experience with life.
Here are just two of which many people have found really useful: Though I am not a huge Stephen King fan (do like some of his pieces), ‘On Writing’ is excellent; ‘Writing Down The Bones’ (though Natalie Goldberg only wrote a few novels and turned to her spirituality as her focus) is considered excellent and has stayed one of the most popular books on writing for close to thirty years.
Like with anything else in the arts, people cannot practice for you nor will everything they say to help work for you, but imagine someone learning to dance ballet on their own. People need guides. I think the biggest thing someone can do for a writer is help them to find their voice, and there are many ways to do that in books. Are you not familiar with that process? If so, explore looking for this type of information in books–you know finding ones muse, etc..
Another point, which you did not touch on is that, for the most part, myself and many others have found writer’s block an exaggerated problem to the point of being glamorous to roll off ones tongue. I would agree books of this genre are often unworthy of the time to read them, though some of them hold a few cards. For myself, and for others, things need time to percolate. I have learned, though I may forget some things I would not miss if I wrote immediately, this giving things time to brew is often very important. Do I try to write every day? These days I do, which is why I have my Power of Metaphor Facebook page, and send to it almost daily through my site, which you have been to: www.livingthecreative.wordpress.com But, people generally do not have this type of rhythm from the get go, though I have found it particularly useful with all the papers I have had to write recently!
I cannot emphasize enough the exercises out there which help a writer to find their voice (or their muse LOL) are sacrosanct in my world. New writers need all those exercises which will help them build confidence and find what works for them. It is a weeding out process and builds confidence in their personal exploration. It is that building confidence which brings some enjoyment to the writing process, has someone wanting to write more, will bring them into a rhythm of writing, and not grammar Nazis (banned from the groups I have run LOL). There is a place for good grammar, but I do not think the place is within new writer’s focus of attention, and some may disagree with me.
Personally, I think, that’s why we rely on editor’s even before a book goes to the publishers these days. Anyone ever read about what kind of shape ‘Gone with the Wind’ was in when the publishers got it? It was a disaster. Well, it would never happen these days, so, of course, one has to have some basic grammar sense. And, do I know that my site has grammar mistakes on it? Yes, I do, but sometimes getting things up with everything I had to do was the most important thing. Heck, most of us know, it is much easier to see someone else’s mistakes than our own. One can correct ones grammar mistakes, when they have the time online. Maybe, you think I am lazy, but doing research and writing papers and essays for university (which do need a certain level of perfection) is very time-consuming, and I am not sending this stuff to the publishers, YET!
I think, with new writer’s, helping them out of hiding is also crucial. People are often frightened of hurting someones feelings, even putting the words down of what they really think into a journal can break someone into a sweat. There are books helping writer’s to know how to fictionalize characters. Books teaching how to do this help new writers get over the fear of revealing Granny was always sticking something in her tea, for example.
We are all learning from each other, and we all make mistakes. Hope this has some significance to you.