Saturday, April 10, 2010

Writing about writers writing about writing

Writers love to read about writing. I think it's more a reflection of our own neurosis than any genuine desire to improve ourselves. This is made especially apparent when one considers the crap that's out there.

That being said, I've done a search and have found some interesting links. Probably the most interesting being the one from the Guardian, which compiles several rules about writing written by writers. Among those listed are Elmore Leonard, Anne Enright, Neil Gaiman, and Richard Ford. Some of the rules are on the light side ("Don't be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov" "Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if he is one of those who committed suicide") and some are bit more serious ("Do it every day. Make a habit of putting observation  into words).

I also spied an interesting essay by Molly Young, who wrote in response to above Guardian article. I even found an interview with Ms. Young asking her about the piece she wrote in response to the article.

Some of the essays I read fell into the realm of education. This one was fascinating. It demonstrated how writing badly was a way to demonstrate or to learn how to write well. Don't laugh, take a look and think about it. The opening paragraph alone is worthy of repeating:

"Deliberately writing badly can be an effective way to learn to write better, because knowing when it's bad is an essential element in knowing when it's good. In terms of learning theory, the negative examples produced by writing badly help define what the positive examples are (Davis et al. 227)."

7 comments:

Sullivan McPig said...

Thanks for the links. I'll check them out

Steve Buchheit said...

It like writer porn.

Christina said...

"Do not place a photograph of your favorite author on your desk, especially if he is one of those who committed suicide"

That is freaking funny! I looove it.

Sphinx Ink said...

I love reading what other writers have to say about writing. The Guardian's 10 Rules article was a jackpot. I guess it's a like cannibals who believe eating an enemy will give them the enemy's powers. Writers (especially not-yet-published writers) believe we can acquire the skill and art of other writers by reading about their writing processes.

SQT said...

That last one reminds me of the writing prompt you had in which we were supposed to write poorly. I miss those prompts. I haven't been writing much lately and need a kick in the behind sometimes.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I like Margaret Atwood's advice about not sitting down in the middle of the woods, which I've been known to do. I feel like I've just sat around a dinner table soaking in writing advice. Thanks for the links, S :)

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