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words [Feb. 9th, 2009|09:32 am]
Writing is an important skill, and it's one of those things that I think gets more fun the better you get at it. Aside from a 10-week-long (intense, granted) course in persuasive writing at the end of college, I've never really been subjected to a rigorous writing program, or been required to do tons and tons of writing and analysis of my writing to actually get better at it. (I don't know if Hum 123-124 counts; I don't really count it.) This is something I feel would be valuable at any stage of life. And it's a skill I want to have. Now.

So: I'm looking for writing courses to take. Expository writing. (I'll want to give creative writing a whirl at some point, but I want to feel a lot better about expository writing first.) Preferably a super rigorous, structured, hardcore, frequently-meeting course.

I'm sure I could check out what's offered at Stanford, USF, SFSU, CCSF. . . But I wanted to put the feelers out: Have you taken a writing course in the bay area? An awesome one? Will you tell me about it? Thanks!

[User Picture]From: talentedmrraber
2009-02-09 11:02 pm (UTC)
Ashx0rs! I think it is great that you want to get some writing skills, and probably a writing course would be helpful. However, I think writing skill is kind of like the picture in a Magic Eye: if you look right at it, you won't find it. If you take the focus off and just look in the general area, though, it pops right out.

In other words, I think that if you just try to express your ideas about a sufficiently complex topic, you will find that, as you try to get that complexity across with a minimum loss of relevant information, writing skills will emerge. On the other hand, if you start with an idea that seems pretty simple and try to gussy it up with "good writing," it will feel contrived.

In other other words, good writing is to thinking as a perfect crust is to a loaf of bread. Even though you could, say, brush the outside of the loaf with oil before you bake it to get a crispier crust, the main way to get the perfect crust is by doing a lot of things right when you make the dough, etc. If you don't do that stuff right, then all the oil-brushing in the world won't make the crust come out just right.

In other other other words ... well, I will follow my own advice and stop trying to contrive ridiculous analogies to express a simple thought. Even though it's fun.
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[User Picture]From: ashleyisachild
2009-02-09 11:42 pm (UTC)
Rab0r! Thanks! And yes, I definitely see what you're saying. What more or less prompted me to start looking for actual writing courses was a recent conversation with some friends about what you're talking about here--good writing being a sign of good thinking. And I think practicing one results in improvements in the other, in both directions.

Anyways, thank u for the w0rds of wisd0m. And you're always welcome to contrive ridiculous analogies on my LJ. :D
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[User Picture]From: sethomas84
2009-02-10 04:51 am (UTC)
My girlfriend attended University of Iowa's summer writing program, which is a huuuge deal (Vonnegut once taught it, I believe). So, since she's in the system, I asked her what would likely be good in the Bay area. She said that because of its greater emphasis on humanities, UC Berkley is probably the best option (above Stanford), so you might want to see if they have summer programs or seminars or the like.

I guess the whole thing is entirely subjective to the actual direction in which you want to take your writing. For example, my PIR prof told me that a problem I had with my papers was that I expressed good ideas and had a very good writing style, but the writing style didn't actually fit the nature of the assigned paper and this detracted from the overall quality. It's the common conundrum of wanting to write a computer repair manual in the style of Joyce's Ulysses or struggling to create a Danielle Steele-esque vignette and having it come off like the narration to a National Geographic program.
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[User Picture]From: ashleyisachild
2009-02-10 07:40 am (UTC)
Oooh, I'll definitely look into Berkeley. One point though: while Berkeley may be more focused on humanities, isn't Stanford more focused on business? Although I think in general I'd rather choose whatever course is higher quality, rather than choosing one that's geared more toward where I'd be using the skill. Also, hopefully style can be one of those things that you can tailor after developing the basic skills. I.e., ideally one would not end up quarantining themselves to a certain style, but would be learning to create words in general, and can then later decide to stylize it like a repair manual, or a stream of consciousness, or a romance novel, or a nature program.
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