Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bad Influences

I'm taking a class on interpersonal business practices that emphasizes the point that this blog is attempting to debunk: The only way to lead or follow is to conform. We are supposed to mirror, smile when we don't mean it, be false to ourselves and others just to fit in and accept that without doing all these things, we will never make good corporate cogs.

Does this sound familiar? Consider the day to day bad influences in writing. Few, if any of us, have been encouraged to write without both the text and our ability to write being judged, graded or critiqued in some way.  That means that most writing these days does not come from a genuine desire to communicate. We write to earn money or a grade, to prove something to ourselves or others, to convince or cajole and because we are told over and over that all writing is formulaic.

If you are lucky, as a child you were allowed to read every book you could understand and get your hands on. You read for pleasure, because the illustrations and the words' rhythms made you smile or laugh. We could get lost in that flow for hours.

Then as we grew, others decided what we should read and what shape our writing would take. For many of us, our only writing outside school was in diaries or journals. We started judging our own writing abilities based on whether the teacher put a star on a poem or shared a short story with the class.

In the next blog post, I will go into how high school English has always been about reading and comprehension. Although there is a push to change this.

For today, though, look around at the influences you embrace because they are familiar and make you feel like a writer when you follow the prescriptions closely. Think about one piece of advice that doesn't work for you, but has become a habit, such as outlining. Then consider how you can change that habit to help you write without caring about how it ends; to concentrate instead on how writing makes you feel at this moment.

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