Rules, rules, rules

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.*

Sometimes I feel there are more writers teaching others how to write, passing down rules, than there are writers who actually write.

It’s easier to teach than to do, and it feels like a nice shortcut towards fame, success, money, whatever.

I do my best not to teach anyone how to write. I want to believe I’m just writing about my own process. If someone finds motivation, or inspiration, or something else worth applying in their own process, that’s cool. If not, it’s still cool.

So, yeah, there are a lot of rules being passed down. Most of them won’t apply to everyone.

First of all, practice makes perfect, but you should also be aware that writing is an art.

One of the most intricate of art forms. So, the simple truth is that no matter how much you try, how hard you’ll work, there will always be someone better than you. I know  it’s not grandly inspirational and stuff, but trust me, it kind of sets your level of expectation where it belongs.

Let me give you an example. Arthur Rimbaud. If you haven’t heard of him, he was a French poet who wrote most of his stuff between the age of 16 and 20, and is considered one of the best French poets in history. Even though I don’t believe much in talent as an innate ability to create art, there will be someone who’ll start making great art right away; because of all the little actions and experiences that make up a great artist have been molding him into one.

Some of my writer friends might read this and think I’m just trying to act all modest. Usually I’m ambitious to the brink of arrogant. So let me say this: Even though I may not be the best of writers and maybe I won’t ever be as good as I hope to be, I am a firm believer that at least some of my writing, even a little bit of it, can be as good as any great writer could have written. Maybe because I know that luck is just a matter of trying, or maybe because hard work tends to pay off in time, but I know that every writer is capable of writing a brilliant piece of writing.

Let me give you another example.  Alexandru Macedonski was a Romanian novelist and poet. Most of his stuff is either bad or cliche. Just about all of it, actually. But in some of his works he exhibited a level of innovation and talent that was remarkable for the time period.

Another rule? Read, read, read.

I know it sounds like such a terrible cliche, and I know that at least two thousand different writers and editors and journalists and bloggers wrote it before me, but it’s true, and it’s the best advice anyone can give you, maybe even the only real advice.

Read anything and everything. Even books you hate, books that are plain bad. Successful books, bad books, everything adds. You accumulate a great deal of knowledge about the craft from every novel or short story you read. Even screenplays, comic books, anything you can get your hands on. All that adds to your knowledge about what writing is and what writing is supposed to do. Eventually, if you read enough, you’ll figure out that there aren’t many other rules left. There will be at least a brilliant writer who discards one of those “sacred” rules of writing.

Only by reading a lot can you develop this sense of figuring out if something you’ve written works or not. Sometimes you won’t be able to figure out why, but you’ll still be able to sense that there’s something wrong with it.

Then there’s another rule, much like the previous one: write, write, write. It’s another one of those common sense rules that gets discarded too often. If you wait to be better or wiser before you set up to write your best idea, you’ll never get better nor wiser. You just write, page after page, until you get better, until you can write more and more. And the process becomes easier on your fingers, easier on your brain, easier on your sanity.

No one writes a brilliant first draft, and that’s never going to change, but you’ll see things differently.

A short intermission. When I was a kid, I used to write in Romanian. I was terrible at it for a long time. But I do get pretty ambitious when I set my mind on something. So for two years I was a machine; reading anywhere some hundred novels a year (I still don’t know how I had the time) and writing furiously. At 16 I wrote a novella and won a National Competition. And several other smaller ones with some of my short stories. Maybe I just got lucky, maybe hard work paid off. Who knows?

What I’m really trying to say with this long post is that there are only two valid actions if you want to be better at whatever you’re doing. First, observe the ones who are good at it (read,) then practice as often as possible (write.)

*Some folks have mistakenly thought the post is about high school teachers or something like that. Or they thought the first sentence… whatever. It’s not. That first sentence is about writers passing down rules about writing as a job, without creating some real artwork.

***

This post was sponsored by Leonor Carrosquilla, who just released her first book, Red Circle Days. This is what she has to say about it: 

There are moments in our lives that are imprinted into our very soul. Moments that don’t require a photo album or memory book for us to revisit them time and time again. Some may bring to life the very feelings of sheer happiness they brought the day we experienced them. Others bring the heart wrenching sorrow we spend years trying to erase. These are moments that don’t need a reminder or a red circle on a calendar date, our hearts wrapping around them much like the tiny box on a calendar, keeping them contained only to bring them to the surface each year. Red Circle Days is a collection of those moments that I will forever carry with me, thought provoking moments and stories which have left an indelible imprint on my very soul.

Red Circle Days is available on AmazonKindleNook, the Apple iBookstore, and Sarah Book Publishing.

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98 comments on “Rules, rules, rules

  1. Jnana Hodson says:

    What we really need even more is teachers who instill and nurture a passion for reading. Too often it seems that the classrooms are doing the exact opposite.

  2. ericaatje says:

    Wow, is my comment on the Red Circle Days! So true it is…
    And what you write is something everyone knows, but maybe don’t want to know. They want to be good in writing in an instant. I wish I could write as good as many others, especially in English… But I think I will improve myself by reading and writing more in English. It’s going to be my second language… I even start to think in English. Maybe I will even going to dream in English too, I will check it out tonight. ;)

  3. Oliver Gray says:

    I find that I teach myself things as I teach them to other people. By really taking the time to understand and process ideas so I can explain them to someone else, I’m solidifying them in my mind, too. It may seem one directional – teacher to pupil – but I think the best teachers get just as much out of it as the students.

    Not everyone learns the same way though. Your advice to read and write ravenously cannot be emphasized enough. It’s the one thing that every serious writer has to do, outside of any tricks of the craft.

    • amoralegria says:

      I agree with you, Oliver. I have learned a tremendous amount by teaching, and from my students.

      I disagree with Cristian, however, that it is easier to teach than to “do”. (Is teaching not doing?) I find that it is much easier to write than to teach how to do it. Teaching students to develop the writing craft is tremendously difficult. You can give them all sorts of rules, have them pay attention to sentence structure, voice, organization, etc., but if they don’t have a real feel for it, their writing comes out very stilted.

      Perhaps it is because I teach young children (ages 7-11, mostly) that is why teaching writing is difficult, because they do not have the sophistication yet to analyze their writing.

      However, there are kids who are “natural” at writing. They may write just a few sentences in a paragraph, but I, as the teacher and as a writer, know that there is something in there – a spark, a unique idea or unique twist, something about how they put together words, or the way they structure a writing piece naturally without me telling them how…these are the ones I know have the potential to be good writers.

  4. Olivia Stocum says:

    Rules can kill. I was so bogged down by rules at one point that I could no longer write. And then…. I learned how to break the rules. :)

  5. I really enjoyed this post. Sometimes it takes a little wisdom from another soul to remind us it’s okay simply to write – essential even – and we will all improve through the act of putting pen to paper. And this should be music to our ears, shouldn’t it! After all, it’s the act of writing we love. Thank you for giving me another excuse to just write.

  6. I couldn’t not have chosen a better post to sponsor! I didn’t. You did. It’s perfect. Thank you.

  7. sfhopkins says:

    “the simple truth is that no matter how much you try, how hard you’ll work, there will always be someone better than you.” Yes. And that can destroy you, or it can give you courage. To be publishable at all, you have to be in the top 5% because 95% of what is written will never and should never be published. You also have to know that there is a tiny, tiny fraction at the top of that 5%–let us say half of one per cent–whose sandals you are not worthy to unlatch. If you want to be truthful, you know who they are. That knowledge can crush you or it can give you strength for the fray. I recommend the latter.

  8. erickeys says:

    Good stuff. Thanks!

  9. Francis says:

    This is inspirational stuff – yes – read as much as you can (or like) and write as much as you can (or like) – I would add a third – get back to what you wrote a year ago – or even further – do you still like it or do you think it is nonsense?…..

  10. jillianmak says:

    Thank you! I enjoyed reading this!

  11. jkvegh says:

    What I have found Cristian is that those who teach, aren’t great writers. They are good teachers though!

    • amoralegria says:

      I am both a teacher and a writer, although I admit I am far better as a writer than a teacher! I can point to at least one famous writer who was also a good teacher – at least, the school where he worked kept him on their staff for many years – Frank McCourt. In his book, Teacher Man, he tells how he became a high school teacher and some of the teaching ideas he had. However, the most brilliant of his memoir trilogy was “Angela’s Ashes.” Sad in a way, but also wickedly funny! I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Ireland – the Irish “psyche” and the role of the Catholic church, as well as immigration.

  12. forever36 says:

    Cristian, thank you for this simple piece of advise, it’s the most useful and practical one I have seen in a long time. I have been looking for a way to improve my writing, and I completely agree with you that the more you read and the more you write, you get a better idea of what works and what doesn’t feel right. Thank you for visiting my page.

  13. To some extent you can teach writing basics. However true writing comes with practice, finding out what works for you, and ultimately the drive to create. At least that’s my opinion.

  14. 1bukowski says:

    I used to find that quip offensive. But then I realized that people who think teachers can’t do are ignorant. I’ve been a professional technology analyst and an editor and very successful ones at that. I quit those jobs to teach because I felt I wasn’t making a difference in the world. I teach. I make a difference. What do you make?

    • The post (or the first sentence) is not about teachers, is about writers passing down rules without creating real artwork.

      Your comment doesn’t actually deserve a proper answer, because it’s just arrogant, but let me try, to see if I can be arrogant as well (and I’m not even a teacher). So, what do I make? I make art. You know, that thing we can’t live without? I inspire more people than you can count, I motivate them to explore their creativity. I give them a reason to do whatever they have to do in order to reach their dreams. I write about my own failures, about my own struggles, and I give them a reason to fight.

      And this is the nicest thing I can say to people like you.

      • nobody says:

        You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m like, where I come from, what I’ve been through, what my background is in art or writing, or anything for that matter. I appreciate your comment but not your insinuation. I don’t know you, either, but your last line says volumes about your character. And that is all I have to say in this thread.

      • You opened up a can of rage from that opening line, which is FUN!!! I saw the asterisk (just had a fun spelling moment with that word). Recently, I discovered Taylor Mali. I watched many of his videos, top 3 being “Reading Allowed” http://youtu.be/1rZzwIb6aPE & “I’ll Fight You for the Library” http://youtu.be/2qXgPfMGG8E. The first video i watched of “What do you make?” is raw http://youtu.be/RxsOVK4syxU & it is different from a later performance, which is cleaned up (no dirty language) http://youtu.be/h5yg0u1MkDI. Now, my introduction to Slam was thru a film of the same name which came out in 1998 http://www.imdb.com/rg/VIDEO_PLAY/LINK//video/screenplay/vi3498246425/ This film rocked my world, not only for it’s social commentary, but because I was introduced to a form of art that was new to me. I adore new art. There are 2 scenes in that movie that specifically resonate for me, a white girl from the suburbs of Boston who prizes human diversity. I urge you to watch this film, but at the very least please watch these clips, (spoiler alert / mature language alert) Sha-Clack-Clack http://youtu.be/ojDKI8JxfLs & Amethyst Rock http://youtu.be/LSR7H580e5U. As to rules, rules, rules… it’s all about letting YOUR VOICE FLOW. If you think about your most treasured authors, I bet you know their voices intimately. To me, this is what’s key. Develop your voice, explore your voice, accept your voice, use your voice. There are tons of tips and tricks out there, some will help, some will not. But isn’t it really all about FINDING YOUR VOICE & SETTING IT FREE? Peace, love, hope, xx

      • I find your comments extremely offensive. You, Cristian, seem to forget that to actually teach someone, you must know how to do it yourself.

        I’ve been a writer for a very long time, but decided to teach, basically to give back. I still teach, and I’m multi-published in many forms – short stories, articles, non-fiction books, novels. I’ve been published in magazines, on websites, in print format books, as well as ebooks.

        According to you, I can’t actually ‘do’ and that’s why I teach. Perhaps you should look around the real world, and stop living in your own little world.

        Your arrogance overwhelms me, Cristian.

        • You’ve been published on websites? Wow. That must be something. Of course, I suppose that’s required in order to become a multi-published author.

        • sfhopkins says:

          Cheryl. There are wonderful teachers in this world, and there are dreadful ones. For a very short time, I was one of the latter—my company asked me to do some training, I agreed, and I found that my attitude was, “If you don’t understand this, you must be stupid”. So I stopped. And of course it’s nonsense to say “Those who can’t, teach”. Some people who teach, also can; some people who can’t, still have the impertinence to teach. In fact, though, you’re both right. There are good artisans who also teach (not as many as the world needs; it’s a rare and difficult skill) but even in their case the reality is that they aren’t teaching; their students are learning. Skill and knowledge are drawn in, not pushed in. And the best way to learn to write is—yes—to write; or, rather, to write and then to read critically and understand all that’s wrong with what you wrote. Then do it again. And again. And…

          A young woman in Abu Dhabi said to me last week, “Tell me how to become a writer.” I said, “That’s easy. Write. Write every day. Now you’re a writer. Wasn’t that easy? But what I think you’re really asking is, “How do I become a published writer?” And that’s a very different question.”

          As Tiny Tim said (No, no, not that Tiny Tim), God bless us, every one.

          Hugs

          Suzie

  15. peachyteachy says:

    As a teacher of kids who can barely form a sentence, the advice of “read, read, read” is so relevant. If they would find a passion for reading, a lot of the rest would follow, I think. It is true that the rigidity of what teachers must teach is effectively discouraging a love of reading—and therefore, of writing. Hopefully, it is acceptable to continue to teach while striving to write as well. Thanks for the follow!

  16. As a primary school teacher I am not so sure that it is easier to teach than do. I work so hard to try to build my students’ capabilities in reading and writing and sometimes I see wonderful achievements and gains but there are always those who lag behind no matter what I do. I would love every child to leave my classroom at the end of the year with the same passion for reading and writing that I have.

  17. mrsjacoby19 says:

    This Is a Really Inspiring and Encouraging Post!! I Have Got To Read More!! I’m So Glad I Was Blessed To Read It!! Thank you so much!! :)

  18. Welcome to WWWW, where the first rule is BIC. (butt in chair) The second comes from Elmore Leonard ~ “if it sounds like writing, I re-write it.”

  19. alesiablogs says:

    Writing is indeed a process. I find its 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. I have all kinds of ideas in that 1%, but they are not worth nothing if I do not write them out! Bless YOU.

  20. This left me captivated by your words. Beautiful and on point!

  21. Hear hear! I am in total agreement.

  22. Eli Butler says:

    You’ve inspired me enough to start reading again, and I’m not even a writer.

  23. Great post – I always have to remind myself to keep reading instead of just write. The best way to learn is through example (whether that’s a good or bad example…)

  24. byjhmae says:

    Very well put. Anyone who works hard enough can make something beautiful.

  25. museconfuse says:

    Thanks for sharing, very inspiring.

  26. Good advice, reading and writing are essential for becoming a good writer. Writing should at one time take precedence with set goals in mind. Thanks for the post.

  27. McCheesus says:

    This is probably one of the realest ways you can approach the writing thing when it comes to “teaching”. Aside from the most rudimentary things like how to spell “fish” and “cat” and what a semi-colon is, teaching how to write is a little like trying to teach someone how to be themselves. Incredibly tricky

    Lead the horse to the books, pray he’s one of the ones that knows how to read (and can write, despite the hoof situation)

    • amoralegria says:

      Yes, it is tricky. Often students don’t want to just “let go” – they think only by being someone other than themselves can they be creative enough to write something worthwhile. How often I have heard kids say that they “don’t have anything to write about” because their lives are completely dull. Yet, when you finally get them to just WRITE (and write some more*), they are capable of producing wonderful writing.

      *If they think they are “done”, they are not – they need to keep writing!!

  28. “I want to believe I’m just writing about my own process.” I love this, and I feel it applies to a lot of things.

    In our fast-paced society we tend to want to extract just the nuts and bolts of something, but with some things that just not possible to do without losing some intangible essence in the process.

  29. Though the chances might be slim, even a broomstick will shoot.once in a while. But you, dear Sir, have a pistol in you’re hand. Congratulations on that!.

  30. VarVau says:

    Not only do I like this message, but you often have a mention of writers/poets I’ve never learned about.

  31. godtisx says:

    Thanks for sharing Cristian. Love the stuff you think to share, I would just add one thing to this I think too many writers do not consider. Forge a life, develop a history by being present in your life…have relationships…care about people…don’t care about people….cut people off….have a job…accept being fired from one…start a business….improve your health…experience some of the bed stuff too…then you will know what it feels like to come through those places and will possess empathy for them. That, never hurt anyone’s writing.

  32. oopsjohn says:

    … and those who can’t teach, become philosophers!

  33. After teaching for 30 years, having a little trouble with your opening quote…. Enjoyed the rest of the post though!!!

    • Well, I didn’t use it to reference teachers. In fact, that wasn’t my intention at all. It’s just that there’s a fine line between “pretending” to teach someone to be an artist, and actually being one. Great artist neither have the time, nor the “skill” for such things.

      • amoralegria says:

        Well, Cristian, some of us have to make a living, so we have to take the time to do the work of teaching. At least it’s something worthwhile. I wish I could make a living as a writer (with health insurance benefits included – I live in the USA!) but unfortunately it isn’t easy in this place and time. I do it as a hobby. That’s why I have a blog – hopefully people out there will read some of my stuff. I think I write more for myself, though, than for others…still, to be recognized as brilliant would be nice! ;)

  34. Great post! I like your emphasis that writing is an art. I have a suggestion for changing “practice makes perfect” to “practice makes permanent.” Those who practice their mistakes (rather than learning from them) develop bad habits that are hard to break. One can never read or write too much (well, perhaps until it affects our eyes). :-)

  35. Akanksha says:

    Nice & informative post…thanks a lot for sharing..

  36. Writing is indeed a work in progress: writing from one’s heart putting one’s soul on paper – great post!

  37. Thank you – have been trying to read more, need to write more….

  38. Oloriel says:

    This is some very solid advice and given in a very nice way, I feel as tho your choice of wording would’ve made even the worst skeptic read it and actually READ it.
    There is some growing aversion towards reading nowadays, more and more I see people who write, but do not enjoy reading at all and here I am thinking one cannot fully exist withou the other.

  39. sockfiddler says:

    Hello!

    I’ve been telling people who say things like “I wish I could write as well as you” exactly this stuff for years – you have to work. You have to grind. You have to write those forum FaQ’s and formatting guides and personal posts that don’t quite work and the short stories that people hate and every genre you can lay your hands on. You have to read everything – and if you hate something, you have to know why in order to grow from it.

    These days, I’ve (finally) given up my “dream” of being a writer. This is as much because I spend my days writing and reading reports now as it is because I’ve got a job I love far, far more than how much I thought I’d love writing.

    Writers don’t need teachers. Writers need to write. And then they need people to tell them what’s good and what’s bad about what they’ve produced. It requires silence and humility, and, often, folks who want to be wicked famous and already planning their international book tours lack an affinity with both characteristics.

    Ah well. As long as there’s language, there’ll be people who insist on abusing it and thinking they’re cool for doing so. But I did enjoy reading this post and am looking forward to trawling through more of your stuff for new ways of looking at stuff.

    Thanks!

  40. “It’s easier to teach than to do, and it feels like a nice shortcut towards fame, success, money, whatever.”
    #1 Teaching does not bring money,fame, sucess or whatever
    #2 Teaching is not a shortcut
    #3 What you posted was a mentorship to writers ( teaching)

    • 1. I wasn’t talking about teachers, as in high school teachers or whatever. If you didn’t understand that from the post, then what I’m going to say now it’s just going to confuse the hell out of you.
      2. Writing about writing, about the process, and passing down rules is the easiest thing any writer can do. Trust me, ’cause I know. Also, guides on writing sell extremely well.
      3. Writing about writing, without producing art work, is a shortcut. It’s easy, fast, and doesn’t require as much sweat and blood and tears as actually writing a story or a novel.
      4. What I posted is a post about my rules. I don’t mentor people, I don’t pretend like I know something about something, I just write about my own rules, my own process, and my own opinions.

  41. amritaspeaks says:

    Wise words. Thanks!!

  42. Cool Deb says:

    Ah, reading and writing. Yes, they go hand in hand and indeed, inspire one another. Thank you for the sage council and thoughtful blog.

  43. billierard says:

    That was a long post.

  44. Cristian thank you for this piece it helps me to stay true to my writing, work hard, read the masters in the craft and ship good content. I write about my own learning experiences whilst learning to release my own voice. They say it takes about five novels to find your true voice. I have a long road ahead yet this does not deter me I want to write, it eats away at me. Thank you for posting this, I agree there are too many how too’s and not enough writers just writing.

  45. You have a talent for pushing buttons…AND for inciting great discussions. Good job!

  46. I agree, not such a good choice of opening line, but valid points within your post. What I can add is that many people want to write full-time, but cannot because they have financial commitments and have to make a living. So if you are a writer, it makes sense to teach writing, because at least you’re working within the realm of what you want to do, I guess.

    Also, teaching writing is not uncreative. Teachers generally have to do a lot of writing in the course of their jobs in preparing lessons, or, if they’re university lecturers, preparing seminars and lectures. This may be non-fiction, but these days, you have to be very creative to engage students, so it is still useful to one’s personal development as a writer. You also learn a lot—you are adding to your knowledge base every day, which can’t be bad for a writer.

    As for students of writing, what they get out of it depends on them. You are right—there is no magic formula. However, a good teacher can inspire a student writer to write more, read more, learn more, experience more. There’s also the benefit that a course requires you to hand in finished work. So many people start projects and never finish them, but a course gives you direction and deadlines that will be good training for when you write on your own. As we know, writing a novel takes incredible stamina, dedication, and just plain hard work.

    Having said this, I’ve never taught a creative writing course, nor have I taken one. I have read some great books about writing, though. Stephen King’s On Writing, for example, is excellent.

    One more point: no one expects a football coach to be the best player on the team, a swimming coach to be the fastest swimmer (famously, Mark Sptiz’s coach couldn’t even swim), or a singing teacher to be the best singer. I don’t think it’s important that a writing teacher be the best writer at all. What’s more important is that they can recognise great writing when they see it; can suggest ways students can improve; are very well read; and that they inspire creativity and enthusiasm in their students.

  47. M. L. Sexton says:

    The fact that people take offense to this is really sad. I, too, write about writing and such on my blog and I commend you on this post. I don’t think you should’ve dignified these people’s concerns with an answer or response. Let them make fools of themselves. For teachers, I don’t believe they were smart enough to decipher what you were trying to say. Just because you’re a teacher, does not make you better than anyone else. I have nothing against teachers. My teachers helped mold me into the writer I am today (English and journalism teachers that is). That saying (your first line), has been around for a long time and they’re acting like it’s something new. This is your blog and what you write is about your rules and things that help you write or become better at writing. You’re just trying to let others know what works for you and maybe someone can use your tactics and techniques to help them with their writing. It’s okay that people don’t understand you and that they take offense to it. They shouldn’t be so sensitive. Obviously, they aren’t creative people as we artists are. We’ve learned that criticism is the best form of motivation. At least for me anyway. Sorry this was so long but I was just irritated by some of the ignorant, arrogant nerve of some of these people.

  48. It’s a lot easier to define bad writing than good writing.

  49. Laura W says:

    OK, so I didn’t read all the comments, only your last post about this post. Maybe the lesson learned is to put the name of the person you’re quoting after the quote. I’m a teacher. Right now I’m an instructor by day, a college student studying to get a teaching license by night. I think that GB Shaw was very wrong, but that’s just my opinion, sort of like that was his. Life stuff. I can do a great many things very well, AND I choose to teach for very little money because I love the work, so I don’t really work. However, I think you’re very right. I can teach language arts because I am an expert at language arts. If that was not the case, I should find a new line of work. Seems worth saying that you can’t teach someone to be creative; either you are or you aren’t. Creativity isn’t a skill, it’s a gift. PS I’ll be avoiding the teaching of math if at all possible. BUT, those who CAN also DO teach. ‘Nuff said! Great post!

  50. nccmrm97 says:

    Practice makes perfect. Do you not need to perfect the practice in order for the practice to become perfect? I used to read (novels), and I used to write. Reading this, I want to read more, and get back to writing.

  51. You can’t teach creation – to create, to make something out of nothing…it is energy, thought, emotion, rhythm and intention manifested into form – you can’t teach that. Your opinion and words are clear, your emotion is clear, I do not read any negativity in your thoughts and commend you on this post. You cannot teach people how to create, it is innate within us all…all we can do is encourage one another towards creation.

  52. araneus1 says:

    The Shaw quote is actually right, most of the time, but when you find the exception to this rule, nurture them, protect them and enjoy them. A good teacher who teaches because he/she is good at it is the most amazing person you will meet. Lot’s of people know stuff but only a very few can help others to learn stuff.

    There is another truth that most people do not know (you have worked it out) students learn; teachers do not teach.

    A good teacher shows the way and does not ‘get in the way’. A good teacher makes sure that the student has all the tools and materials they will need and then encourages and challenges.
    Terry

    And yes, I used to be a teacher and I would not let my children near most of the people I worked with!

  53. Great post! I agree with you on the fact that writing is an art. Read, read, read and write, write, write are really lovely points that deserve the emphasis you gave them.
    Keep up the good work!

  54. I agree that writing can’t really be taught, because there is no one way to write a story. Some outline, some are pantsers. I once took a course on novel writing by an author who’s method I couldn’t do myself. Her style wasn’t mine. While it was great to be critiqued by her and the classmates, I didn’t take away what I hoped for. Not that it was a waste, but it was one step in learning my writing style.

  55. amritaspeaks says:

    LOL!! Christian even if you don’t want comments to your post To all the teachers, persistent writers like me find a way to say what they have to say. For starters those who thought otherwise about your earlier post did not read your post completely or did not understand it that is why they got angry. Next if you have received a lot of criticism you don’t need to lose sleep over it you need to sleep smugly because that means you are being taken seriously. Good Day!!

  56. Lau says:

    Hi Cristian..this is an inspiring post… Thanks for sharing it!! You are such a good writer…I have just started..so I have so much to learn and room for improvement (I hope!!) I’ll read your blog with pleasure! Cheers

  57. interesting stuff :)
    i always thought that the best way to learn how to write…is to read :)
    For myself, i loved novels from an early age and never did bother to learn the rules of nouns etc, just the rule of correct spellings etc
    when i read Benn’s Six Penny Library booklet (printed 1920′s) my whole perception shifted a little bit.

  58. carmdiep says:

    I think you have made very valid points in creating the foundation for success in anything.

    I’ve noticed in my own experience blogging, that even my writing gets just a little bit better post after post.

    My whole life I thought I would never be successful doing one thing because I am truthfully very mediocre in everything. Now that I’m older I can see that it wasn’t because of how smart I was or my lack of genetic talent but because I truly didnt put any effort or dedication in practice. So I coasted until I found something I think that I’m getting better at everyday which is firstly being an educator of young children and sometimes an enthusiastic blogger :)

    Thank you for this post that has inspired me to reflect on my own learning experiences— another great reason to read: inspiration!

  59. Reminds me of the Woody Allen quotation, revisited in the Jack Black film, School of Rock — “Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

    Listen–I’ve been a high school English teacher for almost twenty years and I use Allen’s joke often, just for laughs. But there is, of course, an element of truth to it, and I don’t mind making fun of myself. The Eng Dept hallway at my school is littered with poems, stories, novels, fragments of novels (in my case!), and lit crit that remain, for the most part, unpublished. That said, I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that we’re passionate, devoted, well-educated teachers of reading and writing who are skilled readers and writers ourselves. Unfortunately, it just takes a hell of a lot more than writing skills to get published…. But, anyway, we’re not too worried, for teaching is an inspiring, exciting job–never a dull moment, Christian!–and while no one is getting rich, the paydays are consistent.

  60. asklotta says:

    You are correct and great advice for all….read, read, read and practice, practice, practice!

  61. You’re correct: reading and writing extensively is a sure way of improving your skill, provided that you constantly analyze.

  62. aedania says:

    Good advice, and a good read.

  63. jukk888 says:

    I like the feisty side of you. I enjoyed this post, the comments and the replies. It made me think that maybe bloggers need to be more passionate.

  64. Good read.

    -A boy from the third world

  65. “plenty of angry comments and stuff” is GREAT -no such thing as bad publicity!!!

  66. Cristian – Loved this post and didn’t take offense at all, even though I write, teach writing and have taken some of the courses you mention. :) Read, read, read – write, write, write!! Glad I subscribe to your posts.

  67. Christian, Amen in an endless echo. Read, read, read and write, write, write, and rewrite. AND have lots of people read, read, read whatever you write, write and rewrite. Then rewrite again. The space where readers respond to your writing is where the literary experience is spawned.

    And thanks for following my blog, Christian I’m grateful for readers who add to the conversation!–M.

  68. Whoops, Cristian, with no “h”. (What on earth was I thinking?! Should have reread and reread and reread. . .)

  69. I am glad that you recognize that writing is an art. It seems that when it’s done beautifully, people think it’s easy because it looks effortless. It annoys the hell out of me how many people call themselves “writers” when they have no grasp of the craft.

    Your early reading habits mirror my own. I used to keep a log of the books I read. I know that they filled many pages of lists. Where those lists are today, I have no idea, but the words remain imprinted on my life.

    It’s lovely to find a new friend. I hope you’ll visit one of my sites and share your thoughts there.

  70. Edgar Swamp says:

    I come from a family of readers, so we grew up being encouraged to read as much as we could. Reading is one of my favorite pastimes, besides writing. Thank you for the wonderful article!

  71. 8rent says:

    If you’re not taking fire, you’re not over the target.

    Good work, Cristian. And this post is absolutely on point.

  72. Great job writing this. It’s very much real and truthful. Some people, like myself, have forgotten what the fundamental thing in writing is – it’s writing and reading :)

    But, no matter how nice this is, it seems as if some do not read beyond the first line.

  73. June Hazel says:

    Great, but I liked the 28 April post even better! (so, I’m afraid blocking off the comments didn’t work, got my comment in anyway ;-) And, actually, the same is true for teaching how to teach …

  74. b.h.quinn says:

    I read a lot of your posts, but don’t often have anything to add to the conversation. I took this post how it was intended, and — as an actual teacher — I think that does have some weight. But I can see where they got offended — by letting their visceral reaction to being told again that they don’t have anything really to contribute to the world dictate their emotions for the entire piece when that’s not really what it seemed like you were saying.

    I’m glad you were able to clarify what you’d meant by this post, but I do disagree (not hatefully, though). Even if you can’t teach the art of writing — the creative force behind it — you can still teach the mechanics of it. Even with great artists (both visual and literal) first learn the rules before they break them. You just can’t rely on a formula to give you a bestseller, like so many “teachers” claim to have.

    Thank you for your words and your dedication.

  75. I don’t know why you got negative comments to the quote at the beginning of this post. It’s quite old and quite famous. Teachers who have not heard this particular quote are likely the type of teachers to whom the quote refers.
    And I posted anyways, so you won’t get any sleep.
    Hah!
    Kate

  76. amoralegria says:

    It’s old and famous, but it’s ignorant. It was written by someone who has no idea what teaching is about, and how difficult it really is and how much dedication it requires. You have to have knowledge about your subject matter in order to teach, and through teaching you learn. Most teachers are reflective, and become better teachers as a result.

  77. grumpytyke says:

    Hope you had a good sleep Cristian so am commenting on your 13 May post here. I think teachers do a great job, when they’re good teachers – knowing the subject they are ‘teaching’ very well is certainly not enough. I believe you can teach English. I don’t believe you can teach ‘writing’. You can teach factual, report, journalistic writing but that just means teaching how to structure something according to the rules. I didn’t do that in a classroom, my teacher was a very good editor (in fact more than one) sitting near me in my place of work. But when you’ve learned the rules you can break them and often become a better writer by doing so. Nor do I think you become a better writer by writing a lot; if you’re writing garbage you’ll just write a lot more garbage. Many of the free or very cheap books which abound on Amazon – many by authors who have been ‘taught’ creative writing – prove the point, as do some of the bloggers who attempt to follow WordPress’s advice and post at least once a day. What I do think can be taught is how to become a successful writer – financially or in terms of increasing the number of people reading (and ‘enjoying’) your writing. You seem to do it, which is why your blog is popular I think. As a lot of people have said, the best teacher of writing is reading. By the way, I’m not a ‘creative writer’, though I do turn a hand to the occasional haiku, but I have made my living for most of my life by writing.

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