Commentary: Writing without Teachers

Photo by Álvaro Serrano on Unsplash

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By Brian Warner

Maybe you want to be a writer but don’t know where to begin. You’re not alone. Univ. Of Massachusetts, Amherst, professor of English Peter Elbow had the same problem. He shares his experiences as he discovered techniques to become a better writer in the 25th anniversary edition of Writing Without Teachers (Oxford UP, 1988).

Elbow discovered he made better progress by getting ideas on the page without regard to spelling, grammar, or structure at the beginning of a project. He also found new meanings could emerge as he revised & rewrote.

In practice, if a 3-page paper is due in 3 days, write 3 versions, one a day, and edit the best bits together, as opposed to trying to write one perfect page a day. Revision & reworking evolves the work. The final edit ensures each paragraph says one thing, and the sum of paragraphs totals the complete message.

Write quickly without inhibition. Practice free writing. Write whatever comes to mind for 10 minutes. Daily journaling helps.

Writing Without Teachers provides examples showing methods & examples. Working with other writers also helps, or joining writer’s workshops. We’re hoping other websites might begin posting more prisoner-written works like the Davis Vanguard does.

Brian Warner is incarcerated at Mule Creek

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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