Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Quote for Beginning Writers

90º ~ conditions the same, a weak breeze

Every time I teach creative writing, every time I'm asked for advice by beginning writers, I say the same thing:  READ, READ, READ.  There are sound reasons for my saying this, reasons beyond the fact that when I began reading poetry in-depth and with an eye to figuring our how the poet created the magic of the poem, my own work took off in new and amazing directions.  However, I've never heard such a direct explanation of the advice as what Rita Dove had to say about it in an interview in The Writer's Chronicle from Oct/Nov 2005.

"...if you don't like to read, you're not writing for the right reasons.  You're not writing because you love poetry; you're writing because you want attention.  And yes, we all want someone to listen to us--but poetry involves craft and there's a rigor to the craft that the true poet learns to embrace and loves to see executed in others' poems."

As I re-read that quote last night, I had to confess, Dear Reader, that in my younger days, when I didn't read and study other poets, that's exactly what I wanted.  I had all these pressing emotions and observations just bursting to be said; however, without reading and discovering how others had crafted their own poems, I was stumbling through the dark shouting at the top of my lungs, a crazed thing trying to get attention.

I plan to start with this quote in creative writing this fall and see where it takes us as a class.



matfst said...

I'm starting with this too next year. Thanks.
And sending love to the kitties.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks, Matt!

Nancy Devine said...

perhaps it's a developmental thing. many of my high school students who want to write do so out of self-expression. my job is to gently (which is very hard for me) help them understand that craft is an essential part of writing and that reading is a must if one wants to learn craft.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Exactly, Nancy. My undergrads are much the same.

Tawnysha Greene said...

Such great advice! Reading is so important and is the best teacher.

Sandy Longhorn said...

You are certainly working hard at it right now, Tawnysha!

Kathleen said...

Yes, yes, yes!