To Be a Better Writer, Play

Watch children at play and you quickly realize that their approach to learning new skills is very different than most adults. When learning to play a new game, children typically use a 3 step process: listen to a few instructions, watch others briefly and then join in and start playing the game. It’s primarily through trial and error and continuing to play that they master the game.

What can children teach writers about the learning process?

We typically spend a lot of time on step one. We take classes, more classes, read books and take a long time, if ever, to progress to step two and step three. However, to become a better writer requires the same approach to learning as children. We need to move to step three: dive in and play.

I think that’s why one of my favorite books on the art and science of writing is Gabriele Lusser Rico’s book Writing the Natural Way. I first discovered her book in the 1980’s and it’s been on my bookshelf ever since. The format of the book quickly nudges you from reading about a technique to practicing the technique outlined in the chapter. Throughout the book you practice techniques like clustering, trial webs, recurrence, imagery and metaphor, to name just a few.

Recently I picked the book up again and was amazed at how many of the techniques that I learned back then I still use today. One of the most interesting chapters explains how our left and right hemispheres of the brain process information. This was the first book I remember reading that demystified the use of right brain and left brain thinking skills in the creative writing process.

If you are looking for a book that quickly immerses you in the craft of creative writing techniques through play, I recommend checking out the book. The last edition available was published in 2000.

Image:  © iStockphoto.com/MollyAnne