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New Writing Curriculum

October 6, 2009


 Typically, you would think, based on the title of this post, that I was taking on some crazy writing class, and, I suppose I am, but not under the circumstances you would assume. Yesterday, I glued my bum to the seat of my pink spinning chair and virtually commanded myself to write. This is my theory: If I sit down, don’t allow myself to stand up, begin writing, and let my hands take control of the reigns, I will inevitably write something.

I don’t intend to write innumerable short stories or embark on the adventure of writing a persuasive piece, I intend to write something meaningful, and more importantly, complete. I have yet to complete anything more than 35,000 words, and I feel as though I am incomplete without the ability to proudly boast, “I have written something as opposed to nothing.” I have no doubt that nestled comfortably in the recesses of the literary section of my mind (which, I’m glad to say, must be considerably larger than most other portions of my brain) is the topic for which I have been searching, and that cuddled beside it lies the craft through which I can successfully write. When I sit down to write, I can feel Topic lurching to life, and Craft slowly peeping from heavily-lidded eyes. When the feeling that I am writing for a purpose is aroused, I feel as though I could scribble incessantly (a.k.a. type incessantly), jotting down every undiscovered thought in my mind with the words I love to employ.

I read Elizabeth George’s Write Away, an instructional book on writing, last school year, and found its teachings invaluable and in its author, a kindred spirit (as my idol, Anne Shirley, would say). George and I had similar weaknesses, writing tendencies, and beliefs. This aided in my struggle to comprehend all the information I was shoving in my eyeballs. She hooked me on one of her first lines, and I immediately acknowledged the fact that I had fallen head-over-heels for a non-fiction book (needless to say, I was quite ashamed of myself). Here’s the quote:

…where I want to begin then, in laying the for my exploration of craft: with character.

She goes on to speak on how indispensable sufficiently alive characters are to story’s well-being. I agree with all she said. Characters are the livelihood of a book, whether fiction or nonfiction. Their personalities and unique qualities give the book life, color, and the unpredictability crucial to the plot. I’ve learned this both from reading George’s book and through reading books in general. I read books, I watch television, and, frankly, I live life for the characters they encompass. A drab, nearly uneventful storyline can be enlivened by the thoughts of any individual character. In my story, Impediments, I wrote about nearly nothing. Where’s the excitement in the drawing of a drawbridge? Where’s the thrill? The story? Nowhere. Those things are absent from the storyline, yet it’s the character’s mulling that consumes the story, and, consequently, we have added vibrant something to colorless nothing.

I went down a path in writing this post that I hadn’t intended. I merely got on here to let you know my plan. Give me a moment to gather my flock of meandering thoughts…

Oh, yes, bum glue. It’s power is undeniable. I coveted nearly all of Elizabeth George’s writing process, and bum glue is indubitably the most valuable thing I have stolen. She quotes her “Journal of a Novel” at the beginning of her chapter, “The Value of Bum Glue”:

This is the moment when faith is called for. Faith in the creative spirit within me, which is part of what I’ve been given by God; faith in the process; faith my intelligence and my imagination. If I have managed to imagine these characters and this situation into being, doesn’t it follow that I should be able to imagine my way through the end of the book? It seems so. Thus… I suit up and show up. I sit down at the computer and I do the work, moving it forward a sentence at a time, which is ultimately the one way there is to write a book.

There is more truth in those words than you would originally think. I have tried her theories and found they fit me like a glove. I must honestly say that some may not get what I have from her book. I understand that the fact that she and I are very similar is crucial to my understanding and acceptance of her teachings of the craft of writing. All the same, I think bum glue, when applied to any individual, would be extremely helpful. Here is my vow to myself:

I will write for two hours, four days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays), until I am finished with the craft of my writing and may move on with the beloved art. Only under unexpected circumstances may I alter this determined vow. I hope to finish with my craft by the end of the 2009/2010 school year, and to be able to spend a contented and blissful summer with words and metaphors and semicolons.

I ardently recommend Elizabeth George’s Write Away. I will write a review for it in the future after a rereading, for now, my praise of it here will have to suffice.

I feel that telling all of you my promise to myself is nearly synonymous with promising you, and a promise to another is much more difficult to break than a promise told to one’s self, which is unseen and can only be upheld by you and your conscience. It’s far too easy to deceive yourself, unfortunately. Wish me luck on my hefty writing endeavour. I have high hopes it will all amount to something, someday, and in some form.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Grandma Jensen permalink
    October 13, 2009 10:15 PM

    Maddy, I’m exhausted and didn’t read all that you wrote, but didn’t want to go another day without at least reading something of yours. All sounds very much better than anything that I could have written at your age, or probably even now.

    You go, girl.

    Your grandma

  2. October 6, 2009 11:08 PM

    Good luck, Madeleine!

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