If the fact that I'm writing Writing Tip for the Practical-Minded #17 confuses you, because you are utterly certain that you read Writing Tip for the Practical-Minded #19 yesterday, rest easy. I looked back and saw that I skipped #17. Slipping it in out of order is just easier and less confusing than re-numbering the old posts.
I love to teach writing, and I'll be doing that soon at the Anhinga Writers' Studio Summer Workshops, July 28-31. If you like this blog, you'll love our conference. I'm in charge of the faculty, so I've assembled a crackerjack faculty that is stacked with my friends. This means that they are talented teachers and they are fun. My agent, Anne Hawkins, will be there. So will Jeanne Leiby, editor of The Southern Review, NEA fellow and Florida Poet Laureate Peter Meinke, and a bunch of my other buddies. I myself will be blathering for six hours over the course of two days, and I'll be doing one-on-one consults with students, as well. Look here, if you'd like to get your Writing Tips for the Practical-Minded in person. (I was going to say, "...if you want to learn to make sausage in person," but that just sounded icky.)
When I teach, I want my students to think of new ways to express their art, writing. Sometimes, I suggest that they look to other art forms to get another lens on the creative process.
Thinking about melodies and how they move people's souls will help you listen to the music in your prose. Song lyrics or poems will open your ears to your own rhythms.
A mental picture of dancing bodies will give your words motion and lightness. You want your words to leap across the page. Your readers' eyes should never plod.
A painting can be viewed as a whole in an instant, and a book can't. Even poetry can't be perceived at a glance...not even haiku. But to truly appreciate a painting, it's necessary to stand in front of it and look at the details. The brush strokes, whether they be feathery and precise or whether they be great gobs of paint ladled on with a knife, were applied for a reason. Spend some time in front of a painting and ask yourself where the artist spent the most time and attention. Ask yourself why he or she made that choice. Then apply the answer to your own work. What visual detail is so important to your story that you must spend precious words describing it? Because words are precious. Don't splatter them all over the page. Set them down gently, like diamonds in an antique brooch.
To me, the very definition of an art must involve the notion of communication. Artists communicate emotions that we all experience, but we're not all able to express them. That's why artists and their work have been valued since the first handprint was painted on a cave wall. Take yourself seriously as an artist, and consider how you will use the words that are your medium.