Friday, March 25, 2011
Learning from Literature
There are two ways to learn a trade:
2) ON THE JOB
Me, I prefer the apprenticeship model. :) Of course getting a degree is difficult and wonderful if you can afford it, but I've always admired people who took the initiative to learn a trade from an expert, like my friend in college who went into the carpeting business (complicated trade, that one) or the radio DJ who never majored in broadcast journalism but worked his way up from the coffee-getter position all the same. There's value in learning from real life, just as I believe there's value in learning from real books (vs. text books). My kids will use text books only for math; that's how strongly I believe in the power of learning through life and literature.
As a writer, this perspective has helped me to grow and improve. I read obsessively, taking both the reader's catharsis and the writer's insight. I'm like a plant, soaking up every drop of goodness I recognize. And the more I read, the more I understand what it is that elevates my favorite stories above the rest. In fact, I'm musing about Devastating Your Reader over on Operation Awesome this morning after a night-long read of GRACELING by Kristin Cashore.
Meanwhile, I keep on writing, hoping to write enough bad fiction that there'll be nothing left in me but phenomenal fiction by the time I'm fifty. My writing grows by practice. But it grows even more by observation. We humans are a naturally critical bunch. We spot typos (even if we're not English majors). We see plot holes and non sequitur. We see beauty and ingenuity and talent. And we're generally very good apes. Copy cats. It's how a child grows into an adult, and it's how an amateur grows into a professional writer.
So my question for you today is, what have you read lately? And are you reading enough?