Writers worry about the quality of their work, non-writers think there’s no point in trying. But I’ve taught every kind of student—the “remedial” and the soon-to-be published, the wildly talented and the seemingly hopeless–and I’ve discovered that everyone can learn to write.
Above my desk are two quotations. One is from Matisse: “When I’ve arranged a bouquet for a still life, I always turn it to the side I didn’t intend to paint.” The other is from Blake: “If the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise.”
So much of art is an accident. Good writers show up, write “badly,” feel like fools, keep at it, feel even more foolish, until, in the middle of the the fifth or twenty-fifth draft, they discover a story that is much more interesting than the one they’d intended to write.
It’s often when we feel the most foolish that we’re on verge of doing our best work. If we persist, if we don’t shy away from the possibility of embarrassment, we can complete that best work and send it out into the world. The most important thing I can do for my students is to help them past whatever embarrassment or shyness holds them back from their best writing.
The most important thing I can do as a writer, of course, is to follow the advice I give my students.
I teach classes on writing to heal, as well as fiction & memoir classes. I also offer critiquing services.
WRITING TO HEAL never concerns itself with an audience. Its goal is simply to use writing as a way to see the world and ourselves more deeply. In workshops and one-on-one sessions, I offer a series of exercises to help people address a particular trauma or challenge, boost overall health, or simply re-awaken a sense of delight. No writing experience is necessary. Please contact me at email@example.com for more information.
There’s some overlap between the exercises I use in Write To Heal workshops and FICTION & MEMOIR CLASSES simply because the more deeply you see, the better you’ll write. But traditional classes also involve exercises for developing greater skill and technique. We talk about how to generate raw material and how to revise, shape, and edit that material into polished stories. At the same time, we discuss strategies for minimizing the anxiety that often accompanies revision and editing, so that the whole process, from the first idea to the final draft, stays loose and fun. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for information on upcoming classes.
I take one or two CRITIQUING clients at a time, because this is such labor-intensive work. When I critique someone’s manuscript, I try to enter into it as deeply as I enter into my own writing. I write extensive notes in the margins, as well as an overall note about what I see as the work’s greatest strengths, and what needs development. I also schedule a one-hour phone call or meeting with clients to go over my notes and answer any questions you might have. Contact me at email@example.com.