Peggy Bechko: Writing & Reading – Two Sides Of a Coin

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by Peggy Bechko

It’s easy to talk about craft and grammar and spelling and all the little how-tos and don’t-dos when thinking about and discussing writing. And it’s easy to skip over the more simple things a writer needs to keep in mind or do or both. The more general concepts you kind of have to get into your head and keep there.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. A writer has to read and write – a lot. You have to love it. You have to pretty much think about it when you’re not doing it. You must do both. The more you write the better you write. The more you read the better you write. If you read some bad writing it’s a great lesson in what not to do. Great writing gives you great tips on what you should do. Quite simply they go hand in hand. If you don’t have time to read then forget the writing.

And speaking of the writing, presuming you do write, then you really need to make a habit of writing if you want to make it a success. Write every day (well not EVERY day, you can take a vacation though I frequently find myself jotting notes on vacation and I know my niece, CorinnaBechko, a writer of comic books and her husband Gabriel Hardman writer and illustrator work out plots while on road trips).

In any event, create a schedule that works for you and stick to it. If you love to write in the depths of the night, do that. If you’re a parent and need to write when the kids are asleep or at school, then do that. But whatever time you choose I highly recommend you create a goal, how many words and/or how many hours you’re going to work uninterrupted and stick to it. Seriously, do it every day (well except for that vacation…maybe).

Now here’s a controversial thought, a sort of an overview. Do you as a writer need writing courses or seminars or workshops? The real answer is I don’t know. I don’t, never have.

Everyone is different and here are some things to think about. Is a classroom really a place for serious writing? You can’t close a door and write uninterrupted. You are probably writing something you’ve been told to write or on a subject or in a genre you’ve been instructed to write in. It isn’t coming from YOU.

Also, do you really need a degree to tell you you’re a writer? Or a name tag from a well-known retreat or workshop? If you write you’re a writer; that’s all she wrote!

The good things about writer’s workshops, conferences, etc, is being with like-minded people. Folks who don’t think you’re mildly insane for your desire to write books.

And taking classes to understand grammar and get your spelling brushed up isn’t a bad idea if you’re rusty or just never learned much in the school system.

There are some written courses I’ve seen that have some value, give some good instructional tips, web links to good sites, but those are a separate issue from the collective workshops, conferences and attending in person writing classes.
All in all I’d have to say I’m not big on those. They usually cost a lot of money, eat up a whole bunch of time and critiques I’ve seen aren’t generally to the point, perhaps for fear of hurting someone’s feelings.

So I’d say know your language so you can know what rules you’re breaking and focus in on you and your writing and a space, whether large or small where you can be alone with it and write.