Practicing writing and ongoing humility

by admin on 8 May, 2012

Dave Donald cartoon

I’m taking a memoir writing class through the Denver Library, my philosophy being that free is a good price and that writing is practice. You never have it under your belt.

Saturday’s class was tough. The teacher, whose bent is definitely literary, had me read my scene and then explained to the class why it was bad. She was right, but it hurt – even with my awards under my belt that I can look to and tell myself,  I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me! (Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley)

Part of the problem was that she was only partially right. Another student pointed out that there were different kinds of writing, and what I’d read was a slightly different genre. Teach vehemently disagreed. There’s only good writing and bad writing, she said.

Except that different publications do expect different types of writing, and some details are important for some genres and not for others. If your point is political, in a political magazine, you don’t actually want to write as if the editors were Peter Matthiesen and George Plimpton at the Paris Review. Leave out the geometrical tile, ochre and mauve, on the wet bathroom floor where you first realized that unsustainable capitalism was inevitable.

That said, the teacher was right in that this was a class on women writing their lives, and I didn’t draw a good enough description of the place or time or characters. I skimmed over that to get to my point.

I went back and reworked the piece yesterday. It’s now three times as long and, yes, better.

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