Saturday, November 24, 2007


Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894)

Cacoethes Scribendi

1If all the trees in all the woods were men;
2And each and every blade of grass a pen;
3If every leaf on every shrub and tree
4Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
5Were changed to ink, and all earth's living tribes
6Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
7And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
8The human race should write, and write, and write,
9Till all the pens and paper were used up,
10And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
11Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
12Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Learning about Literature

I find that knowing about literature helps me with my writing. I know, for example, to strive for unity in setting (time and place) and theme. I learn about ways to use symbolism. Studying literature also helps me to enjoy reading more.

One site that I have found that explains a lot of these things is John Lye's website. He is chair of the English department at Brock University in Canada. His page isn't just for his students--it contains a number of articles that you will find helpful, too. For example, one is "On the Uses of Studying Literature". In this article, Professor Lye offers a number of theses on ways to view literature, such as a source of wisdom. There are a number of other articles listed and he also has links to other sites. If you are interested in literature, you will find a lot to read!

I bring my own views to these sites that explain literature and literary theory. I don't, for example, buy into Marxist theory or feminist theory, but it is useful to have an overview of what's out there. What I am more interested in is something like Professor Lye's page for "Critical Reading: A Guide" which gives some explanations and some questions for a reader to use in understanding what he is reading more fully. For me, it's as interesting to read about literature as it is to read literature.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Help for Poets

There are some websites that can help you learn about the details of poetry, including meter. One such site is The Poets Garret. Terry Clitheroe has set up this site and gives a lot of examples and explanation.

Another good site that defines many poetic terms is Glossary of Poetic Terms by Ian Lancashire, Department of English, University of Toronto.

Here is a Toolkit for Poets with links that will help any writer, poet or not.

Ariadne's Poetry Web is also a great site for poets. Lots of information here.

Now, we just all need to write some poetry!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Veteran's Day 2007

“Throughout our history, America has been protected by patriots who cherished liberty and made great sacrifices to advance the cause of freedom. The brave members of the United States Armed Forces have answered the call to serve our Nation, ready to give all for their country. On Veterans Day, we honor these extraordinary Americans for their service and sacrifice, and we pay tribute to the legacy of freedom and peace that they have given our great Nation.”—President George W. Bush, 2007 Veterans Day Proclamation
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends. (John 15:13).

Remember Veteran’s Day today.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Practice, Practice, Practice!

We expect musicians, for example, to have to do a lot of practicing in order to develop their talents. Why not writers?

As writers, we all find that we have a ton of drivel in us and if we will do a lot of practice writing, we'll get a lot of that out of us before we try to write for publication. I also believe that we learn by doing and nothing teaches us about writing like trying to put on paper the storylines that are floating around in our heads.

Nothing will teach us about the problems of plot and characterization like actually writing a story. In that way alone will we encounter the various problems that arise and have to solve them.

Reading a lot will show us what plot devices and other attributes of writing are overdone or fall flat. Practicing our writing will show us whether we can still use those things and perhaps give them a fresh twist, or whether they still fall flat no matter what we try.

I think, too, that practicing writing will show us what weaknesses we have. Do we overexplain and thereby kill suspense? Do we attempt to compensate for our own personality problems by creating perfect characters who do everything right all the time? Do we get carried away with creating excitement and adventure on every page because we like those things and don't realize that lulls in the action provide a needed counterpoint?

There is a lot to writing and practice shows us what we need to improve and what we do well already. It helps us get the ideas that have been done to death out of our system and also the tendancy to preach and the tendancy to include a lot of autobiographical material and the tendancy to overexplain. We see if we overuse certain words or phrases if we find them in every paragraph when we read back through what we've already written. We find out if we have a weakness in grammar or spelling. We find that skimpy research and planning simply aren't adequate to support a good story. We also learn if we tend to spend all our time researching and planning and never get around to writing the story.

There is much to be learned from writing a lot, even without someone to help guide and teach us as we go along. So practice, practice, practice!!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Write About What Interests You

A person can write about anything and everything. What interests you the most? Fiction? Poetry? History? The internet and/or a library can provide you with all the information you need. Add in your own experiences and thoughts and you can write quite interesting pieces.

If you want to be published, you can find guidelines to narrow your focus, plus draw on your own reading experience. Or you can start a blog!

It's good to work at learning how to write well, whether it's spelling and grammar or how to put your ideas and thoughts in an orderly manner so that the reader can follow what you are writing about. The nice thing about a blog is that you can get some feedback from readers. They can tell you if they aren't able to understand what you are getting at, and sometimes they offer suggestions. You could also get a friend or a teacher to read your writing and offer suggestions. One thing that helps a lot is to set aside your finished piece for a few days and then go back and read it with fresh eyes.

Don't be afraid to revise. Editing your writing can improve it immensely, making it more clear and concise.

If you write about something you are very interested in, whether it is nature or cooking or a certain historical period, your enthusiasm and knowledge will show through in your writing and make it interesting for others to read.