Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Wisdom from William Faulkner

by Susan Reichert

The University of Mississippi once invited William Faulkner to the English department to address one class per day for a week. Faulkner devoted the entire time  to answering the students' questions.
When asked what is the best training one should have for writing he said, “Read, read, read. Read everything – classics, good or bad, trash; see how they do it. When a carpenter learns his trade, he does so by observing. Read! You’ll absorb it. Write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”
Good advice. Writers are always seeking out ways to learn how to write.  Reading is one of the easiest ways to learn how to write. You learn by observing. By reading, you are observing.
Faulkner was asked another question. The students wanted to know if it was good to copy a style. His answer was somewhat profound. “If you have something to say, use your own style: it will choose its own type of telling, its own style.”
Of course, these are only two of the pieces of advice he doled out to the students, but I think by far they were the most useful for a budding writer. Don’t you? “Use your own style" and "read, read, read.”
What would your answers have been to the students? 

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