Thursday, July 26, 2007

The first of a series of writing tips

I've just rescheduled my one-day writing course, and I have my college business students lurking at the back of my mind. As I seek for the most elegant solutions for allowing people to make rapid changes in how well they write, I'm going to share my thoughts in this blog.

Writing challenges the idea that it is possible to make significant change within short time frames. Most of us have been writing since we were about six years old: the way we write is mostly a product of unconscious processes that are extremely resilient. In other words, the way we write, like the way we speak, is a habit that resists change.

On the other hand, writing is also an area that has long presupposed the value of modeling: the advice most often given to people who want to write better is to read more. This is quite different than the advice we give people who want to improve their math skills, for instance (no one says that the way to learn math is to look at lots of equations). So we will begin not by doing the difficult thing (noticing how we make choices in writing) but by doing the less difficult thing (noticing how other people write well.)

The writing tip for the first day is a question: Who writes the way you would like to write?

If you aren't sure you have an answer, you have your first project. Go out into the world and notice examples of writing that you think work - whatever "work" means to you and whatever form or genre you are interested in writing. For instance, if you want to write better email, notice the email you read that "works." (Normally, we do it the other way around - we notice something when it is badly written. When it is well written, we notice what we think about its subject matter).

If you are sure, then go read writing that works. And visit again every day or so for a new tip.

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