Become a Great Writer

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One of my high school English teachers asked, "Who taught Shakespeare to write?" How did someone teach the greatest writer to write so well?

I don't recall the rest of discussion, but I think I have an answer now.

This morning I read an article on writing better sales copy. In it, the author argues that we start out as good writers, but the rules and mechanics of writing make us self-conscious and "progressively worse" at writing. Seth Godin goes in a slightly different direction, saying we should write like we talk because the constant practice will do us good.

I agree that writing on a regular basis is a great way to get better at writing (blogging is fantastic for this). I agree that writing should be natural and is best when it's story-driven. But you're going to be hard-pressed to convince me that I was better at writing before I learned the specifics of writing. I've gone back and read some of my early works and they, well... they don't hold up too well.

I believe the way we learn to write better is by mimicking great communicators. Great communicators tell stories vividly painted with words and phrases. The more we hear their meter and practice building worlds the way they do, the better we can apply their words to our works. Shakespeare copied the good and then went even further, inventing words and phrases--many of which are now common today.

So, how do we learn to write better? What allows us to become a great writer?

  1. Ingest & copy great writing
  2. Practice
  3. When the time comes: Throw off the rules and make your own path

Sonlight's Language Arts programs do this. Backed by the massive library of excellent literature in your Core, your students will write daily, learning from the masters and developing their own creative expression.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

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