Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how new media and collaboration change how people learn to write. I mean, in the age where everyone is connected, writing takes on a whole new level. You can upload your writing online and have strangers from all over the world look at it and critique it.
But what did people before the Internet do? How did they improve their writing skills?
For some reason, I think of Benjamin Franklin and his autobiography. In it, he talks about how he learned writing prose by repeatedly copying passages of books by his favorite authors. Apparently he did it so much that by the end he was able to memorize sentences and create new ones based off of them. For some reason, I’ve heard this a lot from older adults who write. They tell me that copying books is the best way to develop a voice and improve in prose. And as much as I’d like to try it, I don’t think I have the time or the paper to write every word down. My dad has suggests I use a thinner book.
The interesting thing is that when I ask my writing professors, they don’t really say the same thing. They tell me that it is a good idea, but it doesn’t work for everyone. Instead, they give me writing textbooks and inform me about writer’s talks. Which I go to, and they help a lot. But it always makes me wonder, what kind of advice would young writers give?
Has new media changed the way we learn how to write?
I feel like nowadays people would tell me to write in a blog in order to improve my writing. Which is so interesting because no one would have said that ten years ago. And as technology is changing, it’s also changing the style in which we write. Older writing practices seem to value tradition and structure (hence the copying of classics) while newer writing practices value novel ideas and collaboration.
But which one is better?
I think when people tell you different things work for different people, in some sense its true. Some people can’t handle old styles of writing and would much rather learn how to blog. But I have a theory that different practices will give you different techniques. Blog writing really helps with purposeful and honest writing because you’re directly interacting with a community of readers who won’t hesitate to respond to you. You have to be intentional with what you say.
With textbook writing, it teaches you the fundamental basics of how to write based on a standard of writing created by wise old writers from the dawn of time.
If each type of practice taught you a specific aspect of writing that you couldn’t learn from the others, wouldn’t it be worth it to try ALL the practices?
It’s like nutrition. You can’t only eat one thing. You have to have a variety.
If that is true, then there are a lot of practices that I need to start doing.