I have some eighty or so publications to my credit, but then I read something like the essay, This Old Man, by Roger Angell, and I think, I wish I could write as well as that. But as I put that marvelous essay aside and turn back to what I’m currently writing, I do write better, because there is no better writing teacher than good writing.
In another essay, Angell wrote, about what makes for good fiction (Angell was a long-time fiction editor at The New Yorker) he seems to suggest good fiction comes down to a couple of things: a writer must notice, and that noticing must be transformed into words that flow effortlessly yet uniquely.
We live—I think—in a world saturated by lies, exaggeration, and self-promotion. Social media is an unabridged encyclopedia of misinformation, and in the world of politics, pragmatism is a dirty word. Ideology is god and is always a false god. To see what is true, to use a Hemingway word, has become harder and harder. It’s hard to write well: it’s harder to see true.
I have no doubt there are good writing teachers, and I applaud them, but I have never been able to teach it because, or so I tell myself, I’m still learning.
When I talk to young people about writing, and they ask for a tip that will help them become better writers, I always say the same thing: “Read, read, read, and read some more. Then read, read, read, and read some more. Next, read, read, read, and read some more. And when you get that done, Read, read, read, and read some more. When you do all that, you’ll be a better writer.”
That brings me to my mantra: Writers don’t write writing. They write reading.
So, to all my fellow writers I wish you all a good (reading) summer. During the summer, you’ll enjoy a series of writing tips on this blog, contributed by writers whose books are outstanding.