Happy Monday, everyone!
On the recommendation of my new boss, I recently read Writing with Style by John R. Trimble. I hate to admit this, but I approached the book thinking I probably already knew everything it was going to try and teach me. And, you know what? I'm about 80% of the way through the book now, and I do know everything it's trying to teach me so far. After all, I've taken a lot of classes, I've read a lot of other books about writing, I've read a lot of fiction, I've written a lot, and I've learned a lot from fellow writers like many of you.
Still, an unexpected thing happened. Even though I didn't learn anything new, I noticed that the writing on my most recent stories and reports were better. This confused and frustrated me! I mean, I didn't learn anything new! Why was my writing getting better? I guess I had something to learn after all. Darn it.
Then, last week, a painfully obvious thing dawned on me. I think it came about after I spent the morning reading about neuroplasticity, which has to do with how our brains learn and retain short-term and long-term memory. It occurred to me that reading Writing with Style didn't necessarily teach me anything new, but it helped me to remember the things I already knew. It helped me to recall the information in a more conscious way so that I could make smarter decisions in my writing.
I think as writers one of the hardest things we have to do is to remember our own writing rules. (Our own rules--not necessarily the rules other people tell us we have to follow.) Most of the time we end up internalizing everything, and our writing feels more intuitive because of it. But there's some benefit in being able to recall what we're doing in a conscious way. I always feel a little pang of delight when I remember something I learned a long time ago. Our brains can't always recall everything immediately the way we wish they could. It's probably even more challenging for writers of long fiction. At least I know I've never been able to hold a whole book in my head at one time. I'm constantly rereading what I'm working on.
So, I guess I'm understanding the importance of reminders, the importance of relearning those things that we already know. It's probably a good thing that the community of bloggers often stumbles upon the same problems. Sometimes they probably serve as valuable reminders for other people. As for me, I'm resolving to take a more active role in refreshing my memory. I think I'll try and go back to basics on a more regular schedule.
P.S. Thanks to my mom making me sort through the old junk I was storing in her garage last night, I found about $200 worth of gift cards. Woohoo!