Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Writing and Language: Training Yourself to Write Better

As a writer, you want to make yourself "ready" to write.  And this is no different from mastering a foreign language - just as you'd want to be ready to communicate with a visitor from abroad, you'll need to ready to share your story on the page.

Day 4 Lesson  /  Learning to Write:

Writing Is a Language Process
And as with any language, learning to write requires practice.  And the type of practice is important.  If you've studied a foreign language, there's a good chance you've spent some quality time memorizing vocab lists.  But the problem with memorizing lists is that you don't get a feel for how to use the words - you might know the individual nouns and verbs, but you don't become familiar enough with to feel comfortable putting them into sentences.

In this course, we discuss many elements of writing.  In the blog, you'll find articles on narrative and plot and character.  And these are good techniques to understand.  But there is no substitute for simply writing.  It's not enough to understand the difference between plot and story - you'll want to have a natural feel for bending a plot to fit your story.  And the best way to acquire this is through practice and experimentation.

This ad clip for Rosetta Stone illustrates why contextual practice is such an important part of the language-learning process:

The Rosetta Stone method actually represents a form of Proprioceptive Language Learning.  If you follow the link to Wikipedia, you'll see that this represents a holistic approach to language learning, integrating the cognitive and neurological aspects of learning the language and its structure with the motor and auditory skills necessary to understand and reproduce the words.

Training Your Hands to Produce Language
In a way, you have already learned more than one writing language.  If you've used a pencil and you've typed on a keyboard, you've experienced firsthand the kind of code-switching that comes with using multiple media.  Compare this to spoken language compared to sign language: Just as members of the Deaf Community have mastered the use of their hands to communicate, so too do writers master the use of their fingers.  But to understand why this works, it helps to consider neurology.

Day 4 Lesson  /  Learning to Write:

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