Friday, February 18, 2011

Formal Training and other Nonsense

Sam and I are going to Reno this weekend to hang out with the Swensons, so we stopped on the way to hang out with James and Monica to break up the trip a bit.  My silly professors apparently didn't schedule their assignments around what's most convenient for me, so I have two papers due on Tuesday...which means I'll be doing homework part of the time instead of hanging out with the family.  Sad face.  (If you know me, you know that homework often comes wayyyyy after family hangout time, so I may or may not just pull an all-nighter on  Monday to get it done.)  I came to Starbucks this morning to start on the homework before we head the rest of the way to Nevada...but the multiple high school kids sitting in here are making it a little hard to concentrate...thus, a blog!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about formal training.  My English classes are wonderful; I feel like I'm learning a lot and remembering a bit how to write.  After a break of about seven years, I'm enjoying being immersed in the language and ideas having to do with writing and reading.  I know I'm benefiting from these classes.  Yet there are times when it just feels so...uncreative.  To learn all the technical aspects of it - it almost takes away the magic of it.

Bear with me as I try to explain these thoughts, which are, I'm afraid, still unsettled.  I guess I just find it weird for a teacher to explain to me, This is how you should write a sentence, or, This is how you should write an analytical essay, or, This is how you can use rhetoric to persuade your readers.  It feels odd because I think I do these things without thinking about them.  I've come to a comfortable place in writing because of how much I read.  I know what grammar makes sense because I can tell when something looks wrong.  I have read so many brilliant writers that I inevitably incorporate their ways of writing into my own, so that out flows rhetoric and proper sentence structure without my having to think about it.

I'm not saying I have nothing more to learn.  I know there are plenty of ways I can improve, and I already feel like my writing is getting better because of the knowledge I'm gaining in my classes.  I guess I just have this thing about technical training.  It's the same with music.  I much prefer raw talent to trained musicians.  There's something about trained voices that make them all sound a bit similar, and sometimes that beautiful, unique quality is lost.  Take Johnny Cash for example.  He took three voice lessons and was told by his teacher to stop taking lessons, so that no one changed the way he sang.  Would he still have that same always-recognizable, amazing tone that had a huge effect on the music world if he'd continued to be formally taught how to sing?

I had the pleasure of sitting in on a Q&A session with Jamaica Kincaid yesterday, a naturally gifted writer who has enjoyed immense success.  Her thoughts on writing somewhat confirmed my thoughts and even raised more questions for me.  She admitted that she often starts sentences with conjunctions, which, according to proper grammar, is incorrect.  Some formally trained writer told her she wasn't supposed to do that, and yet she continues to do so because it adds such a beautiful element to her writing.  It doesn't matter that she doesn't follow what is technically correct; her own style is even better because she doesn't follow the rules.  I'm glad she chose not to listen to those who told her to change.  If she had, we might have lost another great voice to the chorus of indistinguishable voices that blend together into a boring, carbon-copy sound.

I really don't have a definite opinion on the matter.  I'm just full of thoughts and questions.  Don't worry, I'm not planning to drop out of school in order to avoid the technical training.  But creating is a messy process, one that I happen to appreciate because of the lack of order.  If I outlined all my blogs or planned just what I wanted to say before I started writing, I fear so much would be lost from the lack of spontaneity.  I want to glean what I can from my brilliant professors who unquestionably have more knowledge and experience than I have.  At the same time, I know that I have my own voice, my own style, that may or may not align with conventional rules.  So what do I do?  I think I'll just keep on writing.

1 comment:

  1. I would just keep being yourself! Take what you are learning and process it. Keep what you like and what you feel will enhance your writing abilities. Toss out whatever does not mesh or align with you and your values. And just jump through the college hoops while you have to, all the while knowing you will just do your own thing in the end. :)

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