Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to the Future with Writing Teachers

Stumbling through a thrift store last weekend, I discovered a cache of writing books.  Most were geared to high school research papers, but there was one that was spectacular.   If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit by Brenda Ueland has changed everything for me and just when I needed it.

She was a writing teacher who spent her time inspiring her students not criticizing them. 

Her theory?

If you can tell a story to a child (and if you can tell a really big whopper), you can write.

The importance of the whopper?  When I tell a whopper, the details are bigger, more intense, and clearer. For example:

I met Cupid's youngest son the other day in a parking lot outside of a Chinese restaurant.  He was dressed like a peacock, sort of.  His hair would have passed for feathers there were so many spikes that were independently colored. The shirt was about three sizes too large for the boy and was decorated in Hula dancers and surf boards.  At a distance, I could only count eight or nine piercings on his face and ears; he probably had several covered by his clothing. 

He crossed the parking lot in about three steps and propped his hip against the dirty door of my mini van.

"Are you Louise?" he asked.


"Cool.  I'm Aaron.  You're my first assignment. I don't like labels or restrictions, I hope you're good with that."

So this is my opening whopper ... not edited and not restrained, just like Ms. Ueland recommended.  It gets the muse working, the imagination flowing, and joy back in the fingers.

Who knows?  Maybe this will become something.

I thought I needed a 'new' writing teacher.  Turns out I found one in an old book.  Not bad.

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