Friday, September 06, 2013

Writing Tips from NCTE, Part 1: Choosing a Topic

I have mentioned in previous posts the value that the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) brings to developing writers. The organization, composed primarily of English teachers from the middle school to university levels, offers an excellent library of resources to cultivate writing skills.

One particularly useful series of writing guidance appears in the form of 10 single-page PDF files. I will summarize these already concise tip sheets and add a supporting observation of my own over these next 10 WORDS ON THE LINE posts. 

The first sheet, Determining What to Write About, provides good suggestions for breaking through writer's block by generating ideas. Nothing is as intimidating to writers as that moment when they cannot get started or fail to process their ideas efficiently. This is such a big issue that I wrote an entire book about it: How to Write Fast Under Pressure.

Of the 10 strategies listed in the bullet points of the article, the one that has always worked for me is "Read, read, readall great authors are readers who constantly look for ideas from other authors." I find inspiration in reading nearly anything. Reading the poetry of Stephen Dunn makes me want to write poetry, reading the drama of Sam Shepard gets me started in writing dialogues, reading the fiction of Nikos Kazantzakis helps me recall interesting yarns from my own experience, and reading the essays of James Baldwin pushes me to finish an essay.

For more ideas on choosing what to write about, check out the helpful link at the conclusion of the NCTE post.