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14 June 2017

CourseWare

by Andrew

This is how I tumbled down that road to learn to write. If you want to write, you'll tumble down a road of your own. Or if you want to do anything.

The main thing is to do. If you want to write, then write. But writing and reading go hand-in-hand too. So you must read too.

At first, compare your writing to almost anyone. Popular names would be a good idea—Faulkner, Hemingway, Thoreau, Fitzgerald, etc., for example—or Paluchniak, Stephen King, Kurt Vonnegut, J. K. Rowling. I prefer dead guys myself. But read any writer. And see how shit your writing is, just starting down that road especially.

And begin to correct your mistakes from what you've written. Revise things you've wrote. Make a conscience effort to improve in new things you write. This, I still do—and always will. You can always improve, so improve.

Then I visit the library. And libraries are still like homes to me. I read every book they have there about writing. One of the best of those books is, Strunk and White "Elements of Style." And a lot of other writers suggest the same, to read that damn book, to digest it. And some other good books on writing I found there were, Stephen King "On Writing," William Zinsser "On Writing Well," and Anne Lamott "Bird by Bird." The Paris Review interviews I read, the 3 or 4 volumes. And all books you read too are like bibliographies. Read what you can find of what these books—or any books you read, as a general rule—recommend—like a domino effect. And always be writing.

And that Rudius Media site, which I mention again and again, I'm so indebted to. The writers on that site were all mostly passionate about writing, about reading. And they made lists of what they were reading, just starting-out. And I devoured those lists, and have not looked-back since. Some of the books from those original lists I remember:

—Malcolm X "Autobiography"
—John Kennedy Toole "Confederacy of Dunces"
—Steven Pressfield "War of Art"
—Robert Green "48 Laws of Power"
—Marcus Aurelius "Meditations"
—Seneca "Letters from a Stoic"
—Tobias Wolff "This Boy's Life"
—Cormac McCarthy, the Border Trilogy, et al.
—Chuck Paluchniak, "Fight Club," "Choke," et al.
—Saul Alinsky "Rules for Radicals"
—Viktor Frankl "Man's Search for Meaning"
And the Modern Library 100 best novels will keep you busy too, plus the plays of Shakespeare. To read from verified masters is good, to emulate greatness. And St. John's College has a nice curriculum for students too, the Great Books Program, another list of books to read, Western classics.

By here, I had well developed a taste of my own. I branched-off fearlessly from these lists, and read other, more obscure authors. I knew what good writing was to me by then. And I can recognize it now in others.

About the time I was working through St. John's Great Books, I became very intersted in language—foreign languages other than English. A lot of those books are foreign on that list, the St. John's Great Books. Something in me had a desire to read them in their original language.

So I began to study Latin on my own, the root of the Romance languages, which I had the most desire to learn, these Romance languages. And then I studied Latin and Ancient Greek at university, and Italian. And I still can't read Latin fluently, and even less so Ancient Greek—though I still do work on them whenever I do get some comfort. Untangling the grammars alone is very beneficial, not only to writing, but for training and excercising the mind in general. But at Italian, with some review, I can fairly understand. And travel has taught me a bit of Spanish and Portuguese. And once I make maybe one more strong dive into Latin, I'll begin to study some German. And eventually I'll read French literature—which I've been fairly capable at since high school, French—and then Spanish and Portuguese and Italian literatures too. So it never does end, the study.

And the other important thing, besides to write, is to live. The years I spent studying writing before university, I didn't much live, I'd say. I read a lot. I wrote a lot. I studied a lot. But since university, I've crawled and stumbled, and have began to walk on my own feet, to carry my own weight, and have falled-down again and again, and have got-up always. Spend your life reading all the books you want, writing everything you can imagine, but the good-stuff happens outside of that. Find balance—that elixer of life, balance—live and work. And always improve. And admire beauty everywhere.


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