Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Ralph Waldo Emerson on writing well

It is not uncommon to find a book, usually a juicy novel, that we find hard to put down. It is unusual to find a non-fiction book, particularly one about a 19th century author, that has this addictive effect. I maybe exposing my nerdiness, but this happened to me this past weekend. I picked up a copy of First We Read, Then We Write: Emerson on the Creative Process by Robert Richardson. Richardson uses examples of Emerson's writing, selections from his journals, and excerpts from his letters to examine his unique creative process. This multifaceted book is part biography, part literary criticism and part how-to manual. Richardson delves into Emerson's use of language and his desire to use the language "of the street." He makes the point that Emerson thought that the well formed sentence was the key to good writing. This pithiness explains why so many authors and speakers make such liberal use of Emerson quotations in their books and presntations.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Emerson or in improving their own writing. Emerson's writing and creativity was fed by his close contact with a circle of literary friends, Thoreau, Hawthorne, the Alcott's etc. If you want to nurture your writing with a circle of literary friends, plan on attending the Ligonier Valley Writers Conference this coming summer. You may not become the Emerson of our age, but you will grow as a writer and you will certainly have a lot of fun.

Keep your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas flowing and the dream alive.

Thanks for reading.

Jim Busch    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Quantity leads to quality writing

I spend a lot of time in the car and use audiobooks to pass the time. I am currently listening to a collection of stories from "Black Mask" magazine. Black Mask was a pulp magazine that was popular in the 30's, 40's, and 50's and published many great wrters of "hard boiled fiction" such as Dashell Hammet and Raymond Chandler. Another author who got his start in the pulps was Earl Stanley Gardener, the creator of Perry Mason. The book gives a brief biographical sketch of each writer featured. What I found interesting about Gardner was his sheer productivity--for decades he averaged an amazing 1.2 million words a year. This is the equivalent of a new novel every 3 1/2 weeks. There is a lot of research on the effect of practice, of the "10,000 hours" rule. Researchers have found that the best way to become truly skilled at anything is to spend a lot of time doing that thing. Gardner was a great writer because he did a great deal of writing.

This is a good lesson for anyone who is dedicated to the craft of writing. Another key to writing success is to get your work in front of other people who can give you feedback that will help you improve your work. The Ligonier Valley Writer's conference is a great place to meet creative people you will enjoy being with and who will help you become the writer you want to be.

Keep your fingers on the keyboard, the ideas flowing and your dreams alive.

Thanks for reading this blog. Please feel free to post your comments and to share this link.

Jim Busch