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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 18, 2011 / 16 Tamuz, 5771

Against Process

By Paul Greenberg




http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I went to the Arkansas Writers Conference the other day to talk about writing.

Talk about writing? Rather defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Like driving somewhere to walk. Or attending a conference to learn how to pray in solitude.

But I accepted the invitation anyway. I had a few things I wanted to say about the current tendency to teach writing as a process. Much like churning out pre-cast concrete, no doubt. Or producing a political speech that, you can tell, has been written by asking all the politician's advisers for their, to use another unfortunate term, Input. Because that's the accepted Process. As in processed cheese.

There's a reason Mr. Lincoln wrote his Gettysburg Address, and the ineffable Second Inaugural, alone. Writing should concentrate thought, not diffuse it. But we live in the age of writing coaches. You find them everywhere:

At corporate headquarters. ("Let our professional Writing Coach teach you how to write your memoir, Mr. or Ms. CEO! He can remember your experiences so much better than you can!)"

At conventions of writers, which is an interesting concept in itself, considering what a solitary business writing is, or ought to be.

Or you can consult a writing coach on your own. ("Have a seat, Count Tolstoy, and let a real pro show you how it's done. First off, you'll want to foreshadow Anna Karenina's character rather than just throwing her into some messy Russian household, don't you think? And this Vronsky character, he's still a bit of a blank. Your reader's got to wonder what Anna ever saw in him. If you could just bring him out, give him some strong convictions, maybe make him a political activist seeking social justice. ... But on the whole your plot has great potential. There are real possibilities here. You work this thing just right, and you could have a ... screenplay!")

As with any other craft -- like restoring furniture or auto body work or shoe repair -- there ought to be a way to teach writing. I used to think so -- before I tried to do it. Once a week at the Little Rock branch of the University of Arkansas. I soon found out there's no teaching it, no way to turn out a writer who wasn't essentially one before he fell into my clutches.

No talent, no writer. Yes, given enough time and inexhaustible patience, we might be able to produce a wordsmith that way -- but not a writer. Some of the well trained might even be able to pass for writers among the undiscerning. Often enough I feel as if I'm passing for one. A fellow could dine out on that kind of adulation. I know.

I've found that those impressed by the wannabe writer, the writer manque, aren't worth impressing. Unless maybe they have a nice big grant to hand out.

The surest sign of a writer worth reading is that he's not much interested in talking about writing at conferences or workshops. Or anyplace else. Talking is one thing, writing quite another.

Now and then, somebody will want to talk to me about this great idea he has for an article or a book, usually only vaguely. I make it a rule to do him a great favor. I tell him to just write it up instead. Write, don't talk about writing. Show, don't tell. That way, there'll be something on paper, or at least on the computer screen, to work with -- actual, written words.

For a year to the day, I attended an hour-long editorial conference every weekday morning at the old Chicago Daily News, and watched good ideas talked away daily.

The Daily News was a great newspaper when it still had a fine corps of foreign correspondents and a local columnist named Mike Royko. He was so local, so Chicago, he was a national treasure. That's what having a sense of place will do for a columnist. Or for a real writer -- a Faulkner, a Barry Hannah, a Walker Percy, an Ellen Gilchrist.

But how do you teach anybody a sense of place?

Short answer: You don't. You just stand aside and get out of the way when a Buddy Portis comes roaring by, or rather comes trotting by in the perfect 19th-century prose of his soul-daughter Mattie Ross out of Yell County, she of, and with, "True Grit."

Teach somebody to write like that? At a conference? In a classroom? At a writers' workshop? Please.

Kingsley Amis, who should never go unmentioned when writers are discussed, once said that everything wrong about his post-war era could be summed up in one word:

Workshop.

Maybe that's because so much talking is done in workshops, while writing -- good writing, at least -- is done alone.

Writers, like other dangerous criminals, should come to know solitary confinement. It does 'em a world of good. No wonder prisons have incubated the best political writing, certainly in Russia, whether under tsar or commissar. (No matter how much Russia changes, it remains Russia.)

There are certain words that let you know at once that the kind of writing they describe will be certifiably, professionally bad. Words that sound as if they came out of an industrial manual. For excruciating example:

Process.

Input.

Product.

Raymond Carver said that, once a writer starts talking about technique, you know he's all out of ideas.

Writing is simple enough. All you need do is walk into a room, sit down -- alone -- and look at that blank page staring you in the face like a cobra. Then it is time to face the most terrifying of audiences, the one that can see through your every trick: yourself.

Paul Greenberg Archives

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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.

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