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Learning to write

It's commonly said that it takes at least a million words of practice before one's writing starts to become presentable. The quip is most commonly used for fiction writing, but I recently realized how true it is of any writing.

Last week, my father dug up emails we'd exchanged back in '94. I was writing about my time at Smith. There were all sorts of interesting details about my life that I'd forgotten, but what struck me most was how immature my writing was. It was clunky, full of repetitious use of language which added nothing to meaning. In the genre of casual email-writing, at least, I have earned my million words of improvement.

P.S. One of the events I'd managed to forget (how?!) was that Madeleine L'Engle had visited campus that year and given a talk in the chapel, which I attended. (She was a graduate of Smith.) She died on Thursday, as a great many of my f'list have mourned.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 10th, 2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
Those emails were fun to read through! I also noticed how much your writing has changed. However, rather than thinking it was "bad" compared to now, I think it just shows how the way we express ourselves changes so much from adolescence through adulthood. Patterns of speech and dominant concerns evolve without us even realizing it.
Sep. 10th, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC)
That's true. Also the goals of writing change. So much had changed for me that year - it was the first time I was trying to keep my family updated primarily via email rather than via casual conversation. International phone calls are so much cheaper for us than they were back then, whether or not we use them as often as we could. Those emails reflect the awkward balance between trying to keep you updated and trying to do faint justice to how busy I was then.

Now I know it's easier to pick and choose, to concentrate on the most interesting stories and briefly list the rest rather than doing a halfway job on all of it.

But yes, it really was interesting to see what I was doing - and how much of it I've both fogotten and remembered.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 10th, 2007 03:59 pm (UTC)
It's true I didn't care so much about writing the write words in my earlier days of letter writing (I suspect), but I've cared about it enough and written enough correspondance over the years, that I'm certain I must be nearing that number (I know, it's enormous), whether or not I've achieved it, in casual and formal letter writing, primarily in email.

P.S. Should I still bother to read over your ms. version from several months ago, or has it changed to much to bother now?
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 10th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)
I'm still happy to read it and I've finally settled into a pattern with the semester so I know I can put aside the time for it soon.
Sep. 10th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
It is always interesting to see how we've matured over the years. Of course, I'm still waiting for that to happen.

And I am most definitely in mourning for Ms. L'Engle. Her books were pivotal events for me and I have delighted in passing my copies down to my children. The world is a little dimmer for her loss.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )