Unlock the Muse – September 3, 2019

Where I live, children are returning to school – my own, included. Hallelujah! But what does that mean for the writer? Writers who are also parents are no doubt rejoicing along with me, even if (also like me) they work full-time, and school time makes little difference to their schedule. Returning the kids to the routine of learning is helpful anyway, as it requires structure and discipline for the parent as well. For the non-parenting writer, maybe there is little difference as school resumes. Other than slowing down through the school zones, stopping for buses and giddily skipping through the aisles of fun art and office – oh, I mean school – supplies.

One thing the return to school routine always makes me think about is my own, ongoing education. So that is what I will focus on for the month of September.

Here’s your writing prompt for this week:

Copy one of your favorite short stories word-for-word by hand. Before you groan, realize you’ll learn effective mechanics, imagery, conflict and action.

A writer’s training is ongoing. We are, in effect, apprenticed to those who have come before us. This exercise is intended to help you recognize the elements of a successful story. Repeat it as often as you like. But don’t stop with just your favorites. Copy a classic. Copy one you hate. You can learn something from all of these stories.

A writer – or any artist, for that matter – should be forever curious, ever learning new things. A writer’s education, whether formal or informal, is important and shouldn’t ever really end. I’m not here to insist that anyone professing to be a writer should pursue a degree in creative writing. Nor am I going to say it isn’t necessary. Both paths are legitimate.

What I am trying to say is that there is always something more to learn – about the craft of writing as well as the subject matter. For myself, each new project brings with it a need to know something new. I have considered the idea of pursuing an MFA in creative writing, and I just might sign up for an art class at the local community college. In the interest of learning, of course.

Happy writing!

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