Why Are You a Writer?

cave art La_Pasiega-Galeria_A-Ciervas_(panel_22)
Cave art from La Pasiega, in Cantabria, Spain; Author: Hugo Obermaier, 1913. This work is in the public domain.

 

The human effort to leave a record may be seen in cave art dating back 40,000 years.  What prompted these impulses?  Were early humans teaching a lesson?  Leaving a message?  Were they expressing devotion to a deity or satisfying an inchoate desire for self-fulfillment?  Unknowable as the answers to these questions are, so too, for many of us, is the answer to the question, “Why are you a writer?”

Writing is certainly not the most dependable way to earn money.  And it is a career that carries with it the risk of severe, personal criticism.  So, why write?

I have been writing since I was a child.  For me, writing is a way to communicate.  There are other paths to communication–music, art and dance, for example.  Sadly these avenues are not open to me.  Though I express myself with joy through many art forms, I don’t communicate well through them.  They remain my private pleasures.  Words, however, are malleable in my hands.  I mold them, sometimes nimbly, until they convey my intentions in a way that others can understand.  That’s communication.  That’s why I write.

Was I born a writer?  There’s a school of thought that holds some people are born artists and some are not.  I’ve never subscribed to this view.  Give children crayons and they color.  Read nursery rhymes to them and they respond to the cadence of words.  Creativity and art, I believe, are intrinsic to human nature.  Talents vary, as do life influences and opportunity.  The role each of these played in my choice to write–that is impossible to sort out.

I’m a writer.  I’m comfortable in the role and believe I understand the reasons for my choice.

Why are you a writer?

 

 

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Commonsense Approach to Creative Writing

manual trait 1 smash
The Image is taken from “Teacher’s Manual The Artist Inside”. This is one of the sample pictures offered to prompt creative thinking about personal traits . Students are encouraged to look beyond age, gender and race. They are asked to describe what the action in the picture suggests to them. Teachers are invited to copy sample pictures and hand these copies out as part of their lessons.

The following essay is copied from  Rhythm Prism’s writing development book,Teacher’s Manual The Artist Inside

There is a national debate about Common Core and standardized testing. However, when it comes to writing, the discussion is almost irrelevant. Whatever position may be taken on the value of Common Core and standardized testing, the goal of every writing program everywhere is the same: to develop in students the ability to express themselves logically, clearly and effectively.

The Artist Inside writing development book and the accompanying Teacher’s Manual are designed to achieve this universally acknowledged goal.

Those who wish to advance a classic writing development program will find their tradition richly respected in The Artist Inside system. Those who wish to follow guidelines of the Common Core curriculum will find those standards seamlessly incorporated into the system. The ‘gimmick’ of The Artist Inside writing development system is simply this: it is engaging.

Students are invited to use their imagination. They are guided in that use with the introduction of specific tools. Teachers are offered modalities that facilitate student use.

The goal of all language–spoken, written, signed–is to convey information. Writing may require more discipline than speech but, like speech, it becomes more fluent with practice. This is what The Artist Inside system promotes.

The first challenge in any writing program is to get students writing. Extend an invitation, not a challenge. Offer guidance, not rigid structure. With this approach, the skill will evolve, as all language does in the proper environment.

Demystifying Book Writing Part II

book for mystifying blog

I am in the process of writing another small book. A particular kind of concentration is required to complete this project.  There may be people who write from pure inspiration; that’s not me.  Inspiration is essential but not enough. Information is equally important, and patience.

The idea for my book took root only a couple of weeks ago. I had been itching to start on a book for a while but needed to hit on something that grabbed my imagination. Once I got the idea it germinated for a few days. Then I started reading. As I read I began to understand what I needed to learn about my subject. At that point my plan was taking clear shape.

However, I never know if a plan has ‘legs’ until I put words down on paper. Usually I just jump in. I find pictures that are interesting, and random bits of fascinating trivia. I’ve grown familiar with my subject by this stage, so there’s context in which to place the material. This is one of the best parts about writing. I know so much more than I did,  because I’ve been studying.

I love that.

As I put material on paper the practicality of my plan is either validated or not. Often the words lead me in a path that diverges from the original plan. That’s also something I enjoy. When this happens, I’m not just writing for others; I’m also writing for myself. Often I inflict my excitement on family and start to tell them about my discoveries.  This exercise is very helpful and I am grateful to my family for the kindness they extend to me.

The need to frame my thoughts into words that make sense to other people–my family–requires discipline. Not only must I speak logically, but I have to honestly observe the reaction to what I believe to be fascinating information. If people are bored, I’m in trouble.

On the other hand, if my family shows more than polite interest in the material I share, there’s a good chance my intended audience will be engaged.

I’m pretty sure where my current book is going, what my next step has to be.  I certainly know where the book finishes (although sometimes I may be surprised by that).  The beginning is down; the path is set.  The middle will be an adventure as I follow the stepping stones, the highlights of history that will direct the story I would like to tell.

One thing I can’t lose sight of is the audience.  If the attention of the audience is lost, so too is my objective.

The way I go about writing a book certainly will not work for everyone.  My ambition in my current project is very modest.  The intended audience is young people, though I anticipate that the occasional mature reader who stumbles upon the book will not regret the experience.

I love to write.  When I’m finished with a book, I pass it on and hope it has a life of its own. For anyone who creates anything, that is a miracle every time it happens.