Writing needs passion. It is also about perseverance. If you have readers who like your writing, you feel inspired, eager to toil more, and enjoy it immensely. Two years ago I opened a Chinese blog in backchina.com, a website that targets overseas Chinese readers, and started to post some short pieces on women’s lives, responses to Chinese pop culture, thought-provoking incidents of everyday life, reviews of bestsellers, etc. I quickly got some fans. But with various occupations, I did not continue. Now determined to pick up writing again, I feel a sense of guilt for my fans. I realize, the call for writing in me has never died out. At this stage of life, it becomes even stronger, no longer allows me to overlook it.
In addition to teaching Literature and Composition at Concordia University College this term, I am lucky to be invited to audit Professor Betsy Sargent’s graduate course, Composition Theory, in order to get ready to teach a session of Writing Studies 101 in the winter term. I originally thought this theory course must be dry and boring, but the first class smashed my preconception.
We were introduced to the fundamental concept of inkshed, not through lecture but through a 15-minute free writing practice. We learned that a good writer first and foremost should put aside all the worries, concerns, and fears, simply allowing the pen in the hand or the fingers over the keyboard dance freely. Don’t be afraid that your words are not elegant, your sentences not smooth, your punctuations improper. Just write. This is called “inkshed.” It draws out thoughts and feelings that come from your heart, and we all know that artist creation of this kind tend to be the most powerful. This is the initial step. If you can write non-stop and write with confidence, your first step of writing is successful. What follow are revision, getting comments from peers, and ultimately publication.
For William Stafford, an American author born during the First World War, a writer “is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.” Like an artist who can find in his/her painting things that may surprise her to change the original plan of drawing, a writer can encounter an insight, a kind of enlightenment unexpectedly. Without the process of writing, however, s/he may never experience this epiphany moment.
It is that the process of writing endows one with creativity, not that only one with creativity can be a writer. This important point about writing comes from one of the many excerpts selected into the book Conversations about Writing: Eavesdropping, Inkshedding, and Joining In, all written by accomplished writers and scholars of writing studies. Flipping through the book, you don’t see hard-to-chew theoretical jargons. All you see are vividly described stories about how writers approach writing from their personal experiences, or experts who studies writing and the use of language sharing their learning about writing in a friendly way. Reading the book, you feel you’re having one conversation after another with writers and professors about the act of writing, sharing their writing experience, taking their advice, and learn to approach writing from an innovative perspective. You feel the urge to give writing a try because you, too, are equipped with the tool of language.
This is a three-hour evening class. I whined earlier I had to give up my favorite Chinese folk dance class. But I felt interested already after the first class. What is more valuable is that it stimulated my desire to write, encouraged me to keep writing and harvest the joy of sharing my work with the readers.