Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Writing Tuesday: Look for the Good

This week we are switching Writing Monday to Writing Tuesday because yesterday was Read Across America Day. I hope you read to someone! The Writer has been thinking--

What, again? That's twice this year.

--about how writers are overly critical of their works-in-progress. She'll read over what she's written and think, "That part is especially nice" and then immediately think, "If I like it, it must go." Writers have been trained not to fall in love with their own words. Then The Writer read an article in the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWWP) journal, The Writer's Chronicle. The March/April issue has an article by Catherine Wallace called "Care & Feeding of the Work in Progress."

Ms. Wallace suggests that writers (and readers in writer's groups) underline phrases or passages that resonates with them. Don't worry about what doesn't get marked, Ms. Wallace says, but pay attention to what does. It's hard to switch from the old negative critical thinking. This approach isn't just to make the writer feel good, but to reinforce what she's doing right. But here's the neat part: writers (or readers in writer's groups) are also supposed to mark passages that are confusing or unclear.

These "blurry" parts are not something to be fixed, but, as Ms. Wallace says, "the beginning of an important creative leap." These passages are like that scrubby margin between yard and woods, to use one of The Writer's favorite metaphors. That's where the real action is. "As writers," Ms. Wallace says, "we need to cherish our readers responses because they can show us what we are doing that hovers, for now, far beyond our conscious control."

So when you read over what you've written, look for the good instead of concentrating on the bad.


Leah said...

Hey, Ellsworth, tell The Writer every day should be Writing Day! This tip was super! I am going to practice it on my own writing.

ellsworth said...

Every day *is* a Writing Day around here! And an Eating Day!