I was looking through my RSS feeds earlier today and came across this little gem of wisdom from one of my fav authors. She's writing about one of those how-to books for writers, which I find utterly hilarious. Most of the people I've come in contact with feel like writing is some kind of mysterious and unattainable ability that they just don't understand. Apparently, the author of this book is one of them.
Lynn Viehl writes on her blog The Paperback Writer:
"Writing, according to this woefully misguided little tome, is described as something like a magical process, largely unconscious, that belongs in the realm of fairies and wizards and sparkly stuff. Over the last thirty pages my state has completely shifted from utter disbelief to appalled fascination. Where are the orcs? I'm actually waiting for orcs to show up."
It's theories like this that make my job both lucrative and difficult. Lucrative in that because I am a skilled writer with years of experience, I can quickly and deftly create copy for clients that meet their needs in ways that they can't. Difficult because every time I get a student who says, "I can't write" or "I'm such a bad writer!" I know that convincing them otherwise will be extremely difficult.
The truth is that anyone can write -- if they're willing to learn how to do it and practice. My first year writing students often bemoan the amount of work I assign. But at the end of each semester, most students are better writers than they were when they first walked into my class, if only because of the amount of time they spent writing in one way or another throughout the 15 weeks they spend with me. It's getting over their bad experiences and frustrations with writing that's the tough part.
Like any other skill, the ability to write is cultivated over time. There's no shortcut, no matter what anyone says, even though they may be amusing. Viehl writes:
"Odd theories about writing are like fad diets -- everyone tries at least one to see if it works (and, like those silly diets, they generally don't work.) I read this one writing how-to that claimed switching hands while writing to fill out lists of questions about your creativity (or lack thereof) allowed your right and your left hands tell you what they were thinking. Which is what you were thinking. But you didn't know that you were thinking that."
So, yes, I push my students to find their voices and write until their hands want to run away from home, and do so without remorse. Why? I know it is the only way to become a better writer. There's no magic formula or quick fix, or anyone who can't become a good writer for that matter. I believe that each and every student that comes through my class can become a better writer. All they need is some guidance and time.