On Reading / On Writing / The English Teacher


I’ve been reading Half-Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls and thinking about the writer’s craft. Writers (the real ones) create character, detail setting, move the reader from point A to the conclusion of the matter, and, for the life of me, I cannot figure out how they do it. 

For years, I have told my students (poor, unfortunate creatures who never saw the blow coming) that we can all be proficient, effective writers. We are uniquely blessed with the gift and responsibility of language — our duty is to use it well. We write, so that others will read. We have ideas, therefore we share them effectively. We use words because The Word formed us. We communicate in His medium. I love that. And we all can, so we all must do with language what it requires. Develop ideas thoughtfully. Organize effectively. Use words well — find the best ones, and give the tired, overused words a needed break. Craft sentences that are fluid, fluent and varied. Mind the rules, conventions, mechanics of the language’s grammar. And for pete’s sake, insert unique personality into the words on the page! Voice, voice, voice.

I know all that. I GET it, if you will. And, while I am relatively proficient in the English language (knowing the rules permits a stylistic breaking, remember), I realize that writing is more than proficiency. Writing — the good kind, that enflames hearts and enlightens minds — is a gift. Writing is also comprised of hard work. Writers, I contend, must be readers — regularly immersing themselves in others’ words to be energized, inspired, re-fueled. And of course, writer’s must attend to the craft and hone their skills. Still. I think there’s a true gifting that elevates the Steinbeck, the Dickens, the Lewis, the Austen, the Shakespeare. (A random sampling of personal favorites)

Today, I marvel at writers at work. Their gift becomes mine each time my eyes feast on the pages of an open book.


2 thoughts on “Marvel

  1. Before I started writing with much intention, I read voraciously. I read books like a piranha eats flesh. Today I nostalgically bought a used copy of “Don Quixote” (one of the books I devoured) and I’m seriously contemplating a “reading retreat” where I do nothing but eat, sleep, pray and read until I’ve finished it.

    I’m not sure I will, but right now it’s standing on my shelf like a windmill waiting to be conquered.

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