Thursday, June 20, 2019

Lies They Tell Writers, Part 50: Enroll today! You, too, can learn to be a writer!

There’s one thing that’s sorely lacking in my career as a writer: an education.
Beyond what they taught us all back in my day with those dreaded “Themes” in high school (and elementary school and junior high) I am unschooled in writing.
I confess a reasonably good grounding in journalistic-type scribbling, as I earned a degree in the subject in college (between rodeoing and activities best not mentioned).
Still, I can put together a passable assemblage of words now and then. Don’t ask me how or why. But it certainly didn’t come from attending one of those fancy creative writing programs where so many people who want to write enroll, lured by all manner of lofty promises. I know people who have done that, and they tend to hem and haw, fuss and fritter, plan and procrastinate, and talk about writing rather than write.
I read something some time ago about creative writing programs that might help explain that. It references poetry in particular, but I think it applies to creative writing in general. This quotation pretty much sums up what a fellow named Louis Menand wrote in the New Yorker:
Creative-writing programs are designed on the theory that students who have never published a poem can teach other students who have never published a poem how to write a publishable poem.
Sounds about right to me. As I have opined before, you can learn more about good writing by reading the writing of good writers.
Pay attention. They know how to do it.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Really Stupid Words, Chapter 7

American English is a rich language. It changes and evolves, and words and usages come and go. Some clarify, improve, enhance, and enrich.
But some are just plain stupid, and ought to be replaced by more meaningful language. Or, left unsaid altogether.
“We control our own destiny,” for example.
You hear people spout this inane phrase all the time. It gets thrown around as if it actually means something, rather than positing the impossible.
Destiny, by its very nature, is something that cannot be controlled. It’s usually defined as something like, “the predetermined, usually inevitable or irresistible, course of events,” or “events that will necessarily happen.” Note the words “predetermined,” “inevitable,” “irresistible,” and “necessarily.” In other words, uncontrollable.
So, no matter how much you might like to think so, or how hard you try, you cannot control your own destiny.
(Assuming, that is, that “destiny” even exists. But that’s another story.)

Monday, June 3, 2019

Celebrating art.

From June 20 through 23, hundreds of artists of all kinds invade downtown Salt Lake City’s Library Square for the Utah Arts Festival. And tens of thousands of lovers of literature, music, visual arts, dance, and other artistic endeavors join the fun.
This year, cowboy poets and Western writers are on the program, including yours truly. I am honored to have been asked to present a workshop on Western writing and take the stage to read from my work.
Should you live in or find yourself in the Intermountain West while the celebration is in progress, join us. There’s something for everyone on the program—especially something you never expected.