December 19, 2012
With the semester ending, it’s time to look back at the students and the work they’ve done recently. I can recall all those sessions over the last five months and I’m once again struck by a virulent belief in the school population.
Kids, listen to me because I’ve said it before, but I’m going to say it again.
You’re better writers than you think. I’ve had nearly every tutoring session and class start with someone saying how bad he or she is in regards to writing and school work. In a way, they’re right. They lack the knowledge of structure and fallacies. They’ve never been exposed to these concepts before.
But VERY few people are bad writers. If all you need is to learn format and some grammar, those are mechanical issues. Those are things that can be learned. But everyone has something he or she wants to say. One of the biggest secrets about writing is that good writers aren’t necessarily “good writers.”
They’re good editors. A good writer can look at something and figure out what works and what doesn’t, what should be rewritten and what should be expanded. A good writer can place him or herself in the mind of the reader and see how a particular piece of writing. Most of the freshmen I see can understand that their writing is not the greatest. However, it’s when they stop trying to fix it that they become “bad writers.” Sure, it helps to have a good imagination and come up with an original idea, but that’s not all of it.
Editing and rewriting as just as important as finishing that first draft. Learning to recognize what works and what doesn’t work is important. No first draft is ever perfect. Hemmingway said it best. First drafts are always shit.
But that doesn’t mean the first version is the last and the best that can be done. Sure, a professional writer can probably spit out something akin to a first-year writing student’s final draft on the first go, but that’s practice and training.
I was once asked to check a novel for a college professor. The novel was 800 pages of the worst drivel I have ever read. Ever. For anything. The plot was nonsensical. The grammar was terrible. The characters were unoriginal and completely unbelievable. Let me put it this way. One character who started out as a dog groomer eventually became an elite commando heading into South America after getting some lessons on the firing range.
And it was supposed to be based on true events.
It does go to show, however, that while editing and revising are important, it’s the imagination that’s important. Good writing starts off with a good idea, then gets polished into the final product.
Most students I see have a good idea to start. Maybe they don’t realize it, but they do.
So stop beating yourselves up for not being “good writers.” There are writers and writers who don’t try and give up. It’s the same as anything else in life. Some people have innate talent. Training and persistence, however, go a long way.
And now, let’s clear our minds with the full-length Star Trek Into Darkness teaser. Can you say, “Squee”?