I quite clearly remember the lecture in my Writing for Communications course. The teacher was a brilliant man, a writer with the Miami Herald, someone who I held in enormous esteem. I wanted to ace his class more than any other class during the last two years of college. His writing was beautiful, like poetry, even when he wrote about heartbreak and chaos. It drew you in. It had its own rhythm.
Ah. There you go. Poetry.
The course was required of all Mass Comm majors. The first day of class, someone said that she worried about her writing because, while she could write poetry, she couldn’t write prose.
I think the term my favorite teacher used in reply was: bullshit.
He then proceeded to explain that someone who wrote “just the facts” and didn’t know how to dance with words, moving them around so they drew in the reader, was a hack. That’s the difference between someone who takes notes and a writer, he said. A writer learns how to make the most of rhythm and its pauses, its stretches, the way the words sound even on paper. A good writer makes words flow. A good writer doesn’t lose folks in the flotsam and jetsam.
I’m still working on it.
In the years since I graduated, I stopped writing poetry. I started writing copy. Then teaching… and now I’m back to trying poetry in an attempt to make my writing more easy on the eye. Scratch that: I want to make it more interesting, more compelling.
I’m trying to make it a beat to follow. I’m relearning all those lessons he taught back in the day. It’s not as easy as it seems.
I could start by listening to music, the way I used to. I could write away from the sounds of my children and their games and squabbles, but I wouldn’t want to. I’ll have to find some way to get it back.