Writing advice from Thoreau

You go places. You have experiences. You write. What do you make of any experience on the page? Here is a passage from Thoreau worth thinking about:

Let me suggest a theme for you: to state to yourself precisely and completely what that walk over the mountains amounted to for you,—returning to this essay again and again, until you are satisfied that all that was important in your experience, is in it. Give this good reason to yourself for having gone over the mountains, for mankind is ever going over a mountain. Don’t suppose that you can tell it precisely the first dozen times you try, but at ’em again, especially when, after a sufficient pause, you suspect that you are touching the heart or summit of the matter, reiterate your blows there, and account for the mountain to yourself. Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short. It did not take very long to get over the mountain, you thought; but have you got over it indeed? If you have been to the top of Mount Washington, let me ask, what did you find there? That is the way they prove witnesses, you know. Going up there and being blown on is nothing. We never do much climbing while we are there, but we eat our luncheon, etc., very much as at home. It is after we get home that we really go over the mountain, if ever. What did the mountain say? What did the mountain do?

 

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Burn It

Burn the pages, burn them all
torch your etched and crazy faces.

Watch the tricky blue flame ebb,
watch it dissipate before you get on.

Gifts and turn offs: inscriptions, hot tears:
sweet wood chopped, stacked in a pile.

Splintered ink curls, black characters hiss,
spitting little whiffs of self.

Monumental ash assembles, bald embarrassments,
dumb cravings tilted, listed, fell.

Trails of smoke feed midnight blues.
Walk away from the burning man.

Walk, look back more, pull away until
a lonely road intersects,

and you turn down the long road
forgetting what you came for.

Glossary of fiction and creative nonfiction terms

I have been very busy of late preparing for the fall semester, and unfortunately, this blog has suffered from inattention. I will try to keep at it as best I can. Here is something I have been compiling for my intro to creative writing (fiction, nonfiction) classes–a glossary of terms. These concepts come up frequently when we analyze stories or workshop drafts. I thought it would be convenient to have them in one place. No doubt I have left off some essential term; the glossary should grow over time. But I believe I have captured most of the things I tend to emphasize. So why share on the blog? I know some of my readers are writers themselves, and good writers are those who never stop learning. I hope some will benefit from this. In addition to my own input, I have relied on the following sources (all phenomenal books):

The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
Narrative Design by Madison Smart Bell
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up by Lee Gutkind Continue reading “Glossary of fiction and creative nonfiction terms”