Teacher Tales: How to Write Great Content
Everyone has a story to tell. Some folks are natural storytellers, while others leave us scratching our heads in confusion. Some people have what seems an innate ability to drag us into the vortex of their finely crafted story, with almost a supernatural force to keep us riveted to their every word. But, no matter how well-delivered a story may be, without actual delectable content, even the finest storyteller will lose listeners- and readers.
1) One of the suggestions I have often given to my students is to “write what you know”. Maybe you are the absolute best bread baker in a tri-state area. Perhaps you can tear apart an automobile engine, and rebuild it with your eyes closed. You might even have the perfect suggestions on how to make a romantic relationship last forever. Whatever your innate abilities are, you are uniquely qualified in at least one area of life. Capitalize on your experience.
2) If you want to write a fantastic story, one of the best practices to engage in is reading- as voraciously and frequently as possible. Many of the 19th century authors we still read today were trained in the “Classics”. Many authors have stated their education (both formal and self-taught) provided them with solid foundations to create their own masterpieces. For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson credits Goethe, Coleridge, and Fuller with helping him to form many of his concepts and influencing his writing style. Of course, it also helped that Emerson was a genius in his own right, but it is quite possible he wouldn’t have gained the acclaim he had without those major influences in his life. Take some time to re-discover the “Classics”- both as a primer in excellent writing, and as a way to engage your mind in deeper, critical thinking.
3) Don’t be afraid to “borrow” from an author you admire. Now, of course I don’t mean to suggest that anyone plagiarizes characters, plots, or storylines from a beloved author, but there is nothing wrong with “styling” your writing after an author you love to read. One excellent exercise for this is to take a story you know well, and write another story- in the same tone and style of the story you love. Maybe you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes. Try to write a short story as a kind of “fan fiction”. This technique is especially common in science fiction; people want to keep a story or series going- often far beyond what the original author had planned. It is a great way to practice what you’ve learned, apply it, and just maybe, give you the confidence to create your own Harry Potter or Hunger Games.
4) Get out and enjoy your life. Take that spin class. Go on that mountain hike with your friends. Sign up for a wine tasting or cooking class. The more you experience in life, the more subject matter you will have at your disposal. Imagine for a minute if Hemingway had not lived the life he had- we may never have had the masterful, “For Whom the Bell Tolls”. If Thoreau hadn’t decided to live by himself in the woods, we may never have had the beautiful and poetic “Walden”. It is very difficult to write about life if we live it only in our imaginations.
In closing, I wish you all success in your writing, personal, and professional endeavors. May your creativity flow, your paper be plentiful, and your pen never run out of ink.