One of the main ways that humans learn is through imitation. Young children imitate the behavior and speech of their parents and older children. In the past, apprentices in various fields imitated the masters. In the present, aspiring athletes and musicians find models to imitate. Writers, too, can use this exceptionally valuable learning tool. Here’s one way: Read More
The Mastery Path for Writers: a new way to learn the skills you need
There’s another reason I recommend that people who want to do imaginative writing not spend more time than they have to with mass media: those pre-fab images fill your imagination with content that you may not want to collect. Many studies have shown, for instance, that someone who watches a lot of television will probably view thousands of murders in his or her lifetime. Are you sure you want to fill your imagination with these particular images? Read More
As you do the imagination practices, you’ll notice that you don’t need words—not yet!
Of course, when you want to communicate the images in your mind to other people, you’ll need words. But I think that often, when they write, many people get stuck or blocked because they are straining for words instead of letting their imaginations make pictures. When you concentrate on making images in your mind—on making sure they are clear and detailed—often the words you need to get them into the mind of a reader will come to you quite easily. Read More
If you found the practices in the last lesson difficult, you may decide to give up on writing. I urge you not to do that! There are good reasons why it may be hard for you to use your imagination the way you want to.
First, the imagination has been entirely banished from our educational system (except, perhaps, in early childhood education). Instead, educators focus on the acquisition of information and the development of abstract thinking. (These are useful skills, but when they are relied upon to the exclusion of the imagination, they make us mentally unbalanced.) At higher levels of education, the banishment of the imagination is total, and “thinking about thinking” rules. If you have spent a lot of time in the academic world, you will probably have lost connection with your imagination. Read More
PRACTICE: FROM OBSERVATION TO IMAGINATION
Use one of your senses to notice something—the color of the sky, the sound of a bird or a passing car, the taste of your coffee, or something else of your choosing. Now wait until that “something” is no longer present before you—or close your eyes, if you have used them to make your observations. And now, in your imagination, recreate whatever you noticed: see that particular blue of the sky, hear the sound of the bird or car, bring back the taste of the coffee. Read More
We typically refer to poems and stories, novels and plays—even, these days, some kinds of nonfiction—as “creative writing.” Each one of these kinds of writing, or genres, works differently, and if you want to produce pieces of writing in a given genre, you need to know how that genre works. In these lessons I do not discuss the specific things you need to know to write a poem or a novel or a play; there are hundreds of books available which will teach you these things. Instead, here (and in my book, How To Be a Writer,) I provide you with the opportunity to learn some basic creative writing skills you can then apply to work in whichever genre interests you. I do this because my experience as a teacher has shown me that many people don’t realize that creative writing requires the use of different mental faculties than other kinds of writing. Read More