Sunday, December 15, 2013

Reading the writing

I spent an afternoon this week giving some feedback to a friend who is very bravely self publishing a book of memoir pieces. She had sent me several poems and short pieces of prose asking for comments, and in my usual fashion I had annotated each with my thoughts. As it was the first time I’d done this with this particular friend I really wanted us to meet to share my comments … they just looked far too scrawly, and perhaps a bit stark as written, they needed to be discussed, chewed over together, they needed tea and cake!

Our afternoon went well, it was good to hear her views on her writing and to learn that my comments were not too far away from her thoughts. We talked about writing groups, their power for good or not and of what I would call the scholarship of writing  - often, of course, found through creative writing courses. Said friend is very opposed to such courses, cites examples of  ‘good’ writers she knows personally whose writing has changed for the worse since going on a creative writing diploma etc., have had, her words, all the creativity knocked out of them .

That set me thinking about why, what were these courses for, what I had I gained or lost doing such a course several years ago. Then by wonderful coincidence, through a link via a link via a twitter post I came across the comment that it may well be impossible to teach creative writing, to teach someone to be a better writer (whatever that means!!) but it is possible to teach or at least to help someone learn to be a better reader, and to be a better editor. And that way lies better writing.

Now there is something to ponder on, Its so very true that the writers I admire are clearly readers of note and that robust editing is a skill that adds (or even and often positively subtracts) from the best of good writing. Perhaps, my friend’s examples had not taken all the opportunities offered to become better readers, to enhance their editing skills … maybe, what do you think?

That’s all from me on this for now. I’m off to a good book and then to wield my editor’s pen on my latest poem!  As for writing ….

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