FORMS ARE THE ENGINES OF ...
Writing, like a sapling, grows, and, as this metaphor suggests, it develops into a complex tree that only faintly resembles the lone sapling that lies prone and vulnerable in the soil.
One cannot deny that one learns to write by emulating those writers one enjoys reading. That one, even decides to enjoy the writing more than the ideas contained. A good idea badly expressed is of no interest to the writer. The sensitivity of phrasing and of expression, of choice, and of image – this is indescribable, and it should be because good writing does not need to have objective criteria because this criterion will become problematic.
CV: Writing in the right style is setting the carriage straight on the rails.
CV: If I am thinking about a topic just for myself and not with the view to writing a book, I jump all around it; that is the only way of thinking that comes naturally to me. Forcing my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me. Is it even worth attempting now? I squander an unspeakable amount of effort making an arrangement of my thoughts which may have no value at all.
CV: Often, when I have had a picture well framed or have hung it in the right surroundings, I have caught myself feeling as proud as if I had painted the picture myself. That is not quite right: not “as proud as if I painted it, but as proud as if I had helped to paint it, as if I had, so to speak, painted a little bit of it. It is as though an exceptionally gifted arranger of grasses should eventually come to think that he had produced at least a tiny blade of grass himself.
Z 586: Writing is certainly a voluntary movement, and yet an automatic one. And of course there is no question of a feeling of each movement in writing. One feels something, but one could not possibly analyse the feeling. One’s hand writes; it does not write because one wills, but one will what it writes. One does not watch it in astonishment or with interest while writing; does not think “What will it write now?” But not because one had a wish it should write that. For that it writes what I ant might very weel thrown me into astonishment.
“Think about the phrase ‘Once, long ago.’ In a flash it transports you from your present reality and activates a special set of expectations about another world. ‘Once, long ago’ cues every savvy preschooler that this is going to be a fairy tale. Arguably, there are only several hundred different types of stories, with many variation across culture and times. Children eventually develop an understanding of many of these distinct types, each of which has its own typical plot, setting, era, and set of characters. This kind of cognitive information is part of what goes into ‘schemata,’ a term some psychologists use to refer to how certain ways of thinking become routinised and help a person make sense of events and remember them better.” (Wolf, 2008)
“The principles here function in a self-reinforcing spiral: the more coherent the story is to the child, the more easily it is held in memory; the more easily remembered the story is, the more it will contribute to the child’s emerging schemata; and the more schemata the child develops, the more coherent other stories will become and the greater the child’s knowledge base for future reading [and writing] will be.” (Wolf, 2008, p 90 - 91)
“As the twentieth-century Russian psychologist Leo Vygotsky said, the act of putting spoken words and unspoken thought into written words releases and, in the process, changes the thoughts themselves. As humans, we learned to use written language more and more precisely to convey their thoughts, their capacity for abstract thought and novel ideas accelerated. Every child who learns to read someone else’s thoughts and write his or her own repeats a cyclical, germinating relationship between written language and new thought, never before imagined.” (Wolf, 2008, p 65 - 66)
“In his brief life Vygotsky observed that the very process of writing one’s thoughts leads individuals to refine those thoughts and to discover new ways of thinking.” (Wolf, 2008, p 73)
References (back to top)
- Wittgenstein, L. (1967) Zettel. Edited by G.E.M. Anscombe and G.H. von Wright. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- _____________ (1980). Culture and value. Translated by Peter Winch. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
- Wolf, M. (2008). Proust and the squid: the story and science of the reading brain. Cambridge: Icon Books.