Recently I began reading ‘On Writers And Writing’ originally published under the title ‘Negotiating With The Dead’ by Margaret Atwood. In essence it is a collection of essays from lectures she gave originally at the University of Cambridge in the year 2000.
This book in the strictest sense is not a traditional writing guides but a philosophical mediation; Touching upon what influences the writer, both from within and without.
The quality of that which I thus read feels like musical notes; Harmonising, soothing and nourishing. I find the witty reminiscing truly enjoyable too, much of Atwood’s work that I have previously read is serious, and melancholy. Discovering how the romanic myth of ‘writer’ was created, and by whom, was both funny and compelling. I also appreciated and was fascinated by the notion of how books change in so far as how they are read; The books themselves never change, but how readers respond to books does. This is particularly relevant today as the arguments and debates in universities over what should be on the set reading list has become a daily part of college life.
There are many things that will improve your writing;
- Some genuinely excellent writing craft books
- Practice, practice, practice
- Reading a lot; poetry, short prose, novellas, novels, and non-fiction too
- Engaging with and becoming part of your local writing community
Aside from the above mentioned activities, I do believe it’s important that all writers should read philosophical books of this nature from time to time. To contemplate and debate the various influences that have played their part in your devolpment can only help in your ongoing self-awareness that all writers, no matter how experienced need to consider and revisit as a matter of routine. The learning of the craft of writing is life-long, and is as much a part of our ‘homework’ assignment as writing that poem/short story/novel or script.