Thursday, February 15, 2007

Involve me

Posted by Lynne

I'm a teacher who teaches teachers. On a daily basis, I remind myself and other educators that there isn't any one right way to learn anything. It's so easy to forget this simple truth. It's easier said than done to remember that there isn't one way to create a character, or interpret a poem, or outline a plot.

Some of us prefer to learn by watching, others by doing. No matter which way you prefer, each of us use our five senses to learn. I believe when it comes to learning anything-- especially learning to write well--the more those senses are engaged, the better. In this way, I don't think there is a right way to learn, simply richer ways. Ways in which all five senses are in hyperalert.

Imagine a scene with only one sense engaged. A woman is in the kitchen cooking dinner. This is tell me writing.

Let's see and hear and feel the scene through Tracy Chevalier's senses.

I was chopping vegetables in the kitchen when I heard voices outside our front door--a woman's, bright as polished brass, and a man's, low and dark like the wood of the table I was working on. They were the kind of voices we heard rarely in our house. I could hear rich carpets in their voices, books and pearls, and fur.

With sights, sounds, smells engaged, a woman making dinner becomes the poor girl Griet in The Girl with a Pearl Earring. Chevalier's pearl is a beautiful book, rich in sensory detail, compelling characters and plot. This book is a beautiful example of how to put all the pieces of craft together--not in the right way--in a rich way.

For me, learning about writing involves using all of my senses. I'm always eager to go to readings where I can listen to other writers tell me what works for them, and what doesn't. I love to read, so that other writers can show me how to execute the rules of writing, and then show me that rules are meant to be broken. And of course, I learn by doing. Writing, rewriting, receiving feedback from my writers' group, and then revising again. When I encourage myself to use all of my senses to learn, it makes it easier to use all of my senses to write.

I have a favorite saying that captures this nicely for me.

Tell me and I may forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.


Therese said...

Well okay, I'll be first to first again:

This is lovely, and so important for writers to remember.

When we as readers are involved, we *care.* The story becomes real. The author has given us the means to complete the artistic circuit.

Let me also say here how much I enjoyed Hannah's post, below. The Stephen King anecdote is priceless!

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thanks, Therese. You are always so encouraging. By the way, I loved your blog post on going to readings and meeting writers in person. (Tuesday, Feb 13th) I do the same with my writers' group pals. It's fun to be a bit of a groupie, and there is so much to learn. Lynne

Lynne Griffin and Amy MacKinnon said...

Thank you, Therese. The story about my aunt is 100% true, down to the timing in each direction. Inspiration lies around every odd corner! Hannah