How to Be a Brilliant Writer

I was in my early teens when I read Oliver Twist for the first time.  It was such a dark novel that I swore off reading any other Dickens novels.  When I saw Great Expectations on the syllabus for my first-year university English course, I figured I was in for a tough, boring read.  Instead, as we read the novel and discussed it in class, I became convinced that Dickens was a brilliant writer.  I even signed up for an upper-year class just on his novels.

Recently, in my poetry class, I thought back to that experience.  A few poems I thought were “good” when I first read them turned into “great” poems as the prof showed us what the poet did to create various effects in the poem.  We looked at line breaks and how cleverly they were used to emphasize certain words and give the reader a message beyond the words.  We read a poem with a strict structure and discussed how that fit the theme of the poem.

Yet even as some of these poetic devices began to make sense to me, I felt despair.  These were poetic devices in the hands of a master.  How could I, an amateur not-even-sure-I-wanna-be-one poet, learn to do that?  In my English courses and in my own personal reading, I’ve read novels, poems, and other pieces that have left me feeling both “wow” and “drat.”  “Wow” because the writer is so good at what they did—and “drat” because I don’t have a hope of ever measuring up.

And yet… maybe I do.  In another class, my prof told us that there will always be voices in our heads (or outside) telling us (for whatever reason) that we can’t do [insert dream here].  If we want to do the things that we dream of doing, we have to silence those voices and chase our dreams.  He talked of the voices who told him no and how he overcame them through hard work and determination.  And I thought “yes.”  I won’t write the next bestselling novel tomorrow… but maybe, someday, as I keep working at my craft, I will write a bestseller or award-winner.

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  1. Koala Bear Writer April 1, 2011
  2. Tracy Krauss March 30, 2011

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