Lisa Gerardy, Writing Center Specialist, Kaplan University
Recently, Kaplan University Writing Center Specialist, Melody Pickle wrote a great blog entitled Don’t Listen to your English Teacher. In her blog, Melody reviews an interview with novelist James Patterson, in which he gives advice to writers. During the interview, he shares that he was once told to quit writing by an English teacher. Having taken many creative writing courses at FIU in Florida, I had a similar experience with one teacher. We will avoid talking about him. However, I also received constructive advice from a different teacher, novelist Les Standiford.
Les was my teacher for two fiction-writing courses. As a teacher, he was honest, yet encouraging, as all teachers should be in my opinion. One day, early in the first course I took with Les, he entered the room, picked up the chalk and wrote, “Writing is rewriting” on the board.
I stared at that for a minute, as did the rest of the class. I had an idea of what he meant, but I didn’t really get it until he started talking. Les told us not to put so much stock in first drafts. He told us that writing was difficult and time consuming. He told us that we would and should revise everything. Finally, Les told us that William Faulkner revised his work until he died. This really stuck with me because I really admire William Faulkner’s work.
Basically, Les gave his students permission to stop trying to get it right the first time. Truly, as writing teachers, I think this is the best advice we can give students. As we are teaching them about the writing process, citation, and thesis statements, we also need to teach them not to be so hard on themselves. As anyone who writes knows, writer’s block is caused by that little critical voice inside. Remember, “Writing is rewriting.”