Learning to Write

What do you remember about learning to write in school?

I remember that in elementary school there was a green strip of paper going around the classroom at the top of the walls.  The alphabet was printed with big white letters on the green paper.  Big A, little a, Big B, little b, etc.  Instructions for drawing each letter were indicated by little arrows.  We also had tablets of pale tan paper with very large line spacing.  We had to write the same letter over and over again until it filled up an entire page.

How has writing been important in your life?

There were two things that I wanted very early in life to do.  I believe I had these thoughts in first grade.  One thing I wanted to do was to work with long columns of numbers.  The other thing I wanted to do was write a book.  At the time of that revelation, I sat down and attempted to write a book.  The first book I tried to write was called The Tank.  I believe I have accomplished my desire to work with long columns of numbers.  I have not accomplished my desire to write a book.

If you had to write a story or essay, would you rather use your life experiences or research as your basis?

All writing can only be based on the writer’s life experiences.  Even a work of pure fiction must be first imagined by the writer.  The act of imagining is a life experience.  Likewise, when you read about a subject during your research, you are experiencing that subject.  When I write about caressing the pock-marked surface of a fluted Grecian column, left standing on a barren hilltop long after the roof it once supported has fallen and been ground to rubble, does it matter whether my back is turned to the last rays of the sun setting in the Aegean or the last rays of the sun brightening those few specks of dust floating in the quiet air of my local library?

If you were starting a new piece of writing, what would you do first? How would you begin to write?

I think that what a writer should do first is determine what he is going to do last.  In other words, determine what is the conclusion of the essay or what is the ending of the story.  From my experience, if the conclusions are unknown, the results of your writing efforts will be many beginnings, a few middles, and no ends.  I find that it is best to begin writing with pen and paper.  The ease with which revisions may be made when writing on the computer tempt the writer to try to make the first draft perfect.  Even writing with pencil on paper tempts the writer to erase and rewrite.  With a pen, the writer knows from the start that the first draft will not be perfect and therefore is free to commit test thoughts to paper.

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