“Online teaching gives the tutor time to read and think deeply about the student’s assignment, none of which is possible in a workshop.”
In the news recently, Anthony Horowitz reveals that his editor has warned him off writing a black character into his next book. As he comments, that would be a pity, because if he only wrote characters that he represented himself, he would be restricted to 62 year-old white, male, Jewish men living in London!
I’m always amazed when students who have probably mostly grown up with the rhythms of pop music in their ears, say they can’t detect strict rhythms in the poems they read, or reproduce those rhythms in the poems they write. But perhaps if we don’t get used to rhythms through hearing and reciting a lot of nursery rhymes from day one, then it’s harder to recognise and reproduce strict metre when we come to write metric poetry later in life. Without continuous practice from birth onwards we may well lose our sense of perfect pitch and our sense of rhythm.
“Show don’t tell” is an old piece of advice which a lot of tutors use to get their students writing with power and effectiveness. It’s perhaps most important in writing poetry but it’s a useful idea to have in mind when you are writing prose fiction or script. Of course, many famous published writers break the rule, if it can be called a rule, but then the first rule of any art or craft is to be able to follow the rules before you start breaking them. The most commonly quoted example of the “Show don’t tell” advice is what Chekhov wrote to his brother in 1888: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
Some writers are planners and know how each story, poem, script will start and end before they begin writing. Other writers are explorers and have an idea, a situation, a character, a place they want to write about but have little inkling of where the writing is going until they are in the middle of it when they might find they are actually still at the beginning or just as likely at the end.
I have been to several exhibitions over the last few weeks and have been aware how important earlier artists have been to the ones that follow them. The phrase “anxiety of influence” was coined by the American literary critic, Harold Bloom in his eponymous book about poets, published in 1973. And writers have been worrying about it ever since. Visual artists seem less worried.