Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sonya Chung on Writing & Teaching Writing

Writer Sonya Chung:

“I think the single most defining characteristic of a writer” – I found myself saying to a friend the other day, when she asked my thoughts on the teaching of writing – “I mean the difference between a writer and someone who ‘wants to be a writer,’ is a high tolerance for uncertainty.”


The truth is that your pretty-good writing may very well get published and make you famous; it’s happened before. Your great writing may never see the light of day. Your really-good writing may get published and be read by very few. You may write something great this time around and something pretty-good next time around and something not-very-good-at-all a few years down the road and never get published at all.


When I sit down with a student and suggest that reading this book or that author may help him understand how to better execute a half-baked story idea or craft strategy, and that student eagerly seeks out / ravenously consumes those works, and keeps asking for more, I feel hopeful about that student’s future as a writer. On the other hand, when a student looks at me blankly and doesn’t even write down my suggestions – doesn’t seem to want to be nourished by literature and get better, but rather simply wants me to praise her originality as is – then I feel I can see the writing (trailing off) on the wall.

Read the rest of this excellent essay about writing and teaching writing in The Millions.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.