There are precise, proven methods for carving a pineapple, and if you want to be successful, you would do well to listen to the hard-won wisdom of the veteran pineapple-carvers who have preceded you. This is the elemental dimension.
As you move beyond the fundamentals and become comfortable with the juicy interaction of knife and fruit, something deeper begins to happen. You may start making minor adjustments to your technique in order to better use the pineapple on the board. You may begin to use a broader array of knives for different parts of the task. With time, you may develop an entirely new and vigorous approach to the whole problem. This is the extemporaneous dimension.
It is often necessary to begin with rudiments and rehearsals in order to achieve mastery. The problem these days is that it becomes more about being faithful to the rudiments than about achieving mastery. It may sound strange, but the whole aim of our education - in anything - ought to be to learn how to break the rules.
Rudimentary writing is important, but it is important only as something to rise above. In time, the writer's desk should resemble more and more an artist's easel, and less and less a gumdrop factory. The ultimate goal is not accurate sentences, but rather accurate meaning.
(Good creative writing is rigorous, of course, but it does not grind and clank like the profane machinery of Isengard. It may be by turns gracefully organic, like Lothlorien, splendidly hearty, like The Shire, or imposingly dignified, like Minas Tirith, but it is always authentic - like Middle-Earth.)
Just as good speakers must first be good and observant listeners, so good writers must first be good and observant readers. By observe I do not mean anatomize. I enjoy the techniques that good writers employ, but I do not dissect these techniques grammatically. It is more a process of absorption than an autopsy. I want the rhythm and style of the writers I admire to be not a garage of trinkets and tools that gather dust on shelves, but rather a dynamic pattern imprinted on my subconscious and ringing in my ears.
Writing is a language. Like any language, it may be learned by rigor and rote, but it is learned best and most fluidly by immersion and interaction. In the world of written communication, we ought to picture ourselves as toddler's learning to talk, not detectives trying to break the code.
If I could, I would eliminate all but the most basic grammar from our curricula, and replace it with a steady reading schedule that inspires and equips the writer to bravely lay his fingers on those little nubs at 'F' and 'J' and begin to turn his valuable but disorganized thoughts into an orderly arrangement of useful communication. Grammar is mostly memorization, and has little to do with the actual acrobatics of interesting writing. Knowing what you want to say is vastly more important than knowing your prepositional phrases and transitive verbs.
Spelling should also be discontinued, for mostly the same reasons. Here again, being on familiar terms with the craft is infinitely more valuable than memorization. Readers are better spellers, simply because they have seen so many words go by.
The other thing we must do is regain an appreciation for good literature as such. Good writing may often be found accompanying bad theology, or even no theology. I immensely enjoy reading such heathen authors as Mark Twain or E. B. White, simply because of their deftness with words and wonderful understated style. On the same line, whatever opinion you happen to hold about Tolkien's Christianity or un-Christianity, the stark fact stands that his work was genius, on literary grounds alone.
I leave you with the smug and irrefutable creed of writers everywhere: In the beginning was the word.
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