Sunday, January 18, 2009

When Writers Talk (or Write) about Writing. . .

One motif that runs through my research on writers that has impacted my view of writing and teaching writing greatly is that many writers reveal a life in writing, a life that brought them to writing, that often struggled against traditional schooling. Barbara Kingsolver, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, and Ralph Ellison all came to a high level of success as writers, but often in spite of school. Kingsolver majored in biology, and Vonnegut, in anthropology (although he was a journalist as early as high school). Atwood left academia while working on her doctorate; Ellison too left college, and entered college to be a musician.

A tremendous paradox exists in the relationship between academia and writing. Writing is an integral part of academia for both the students and the teachers/professors (that which is already written and that yet to be written), but the classroom often does more to suealch writers than inspire them.

Few things are as valuable for any writer (whether student, scholar, poet, or storyteller) than reading and/or listening to a writer discuss the life of the writer. One of my favorites comes from Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried: President's Lecture, Brown University (April 21, 1999).

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