The Writing Life
The Writing Life
21. The Writing Life
Class Introduction: What Happens When We Keep Secrets?08:05 2
Name Your Obsessions13:09 3
Stick to Your Story16:57 4
Identify Your Journey06:27 5
Identify Your Journey Take Your Story Apart15:38 6
The Landing Place09:05 7
The Honesty Question05:12 8
What's the Worst That Can Happen?06:34
Descriptive Versus Interpretive Language10:52 10
Diagramming the Sentence09:25 11
The Importance of Economy09:45 12
Dialogue and Rhythm09:09 13
Six Common Mistakes Writers Make08:09 14
The Paragraph02:52 15
Building the Arc03:07 16
The Test of a Good Memoir17:21 17
The Container04:21 18
Two Containers From Scratch30:03 19
Developing Your Container17:46 20
Dissecting a Good Container Essay29:36 21
The Writing Life02:35 22
Creating a Writing Practice21:39 23
What Gets in Your Way?15:11 24
The Non-Writing Process10:57 25
Criticism and Rejection03:57 26
What Happens When We Tell Our Truth?31:47
The Writing Life
We're gonna talk about the writing life. And the first thing I wanna confess to you is that I haven't had a job since 1977. Haven't had a job, haven't collected a paycheck. Was a single mother, put three children through school, so you better believe I worked hard, and I had to develop some pretty strong work habits, and self-discipline, because I never had a boss. There was nobody standing over me saying, "You'd better deliver", I just knew I did. And my work habits did not include sitting and waiting for the muse. I always knew I had to get up in the morning and tell a story, and I wanted to do it well. And from a pretty early stage, I really recognized, quite apart from need to earn my living, a responsibility to readers. And I have never, never forgotten that part, that what I do, and what you do, as a writer, is only half of the job, really. The other part is what the reader does. The person who takes in your story, and gives over their time and their trust. You take their hand, y...
ou say, "Let me lead you along on this journey", and you'd better make it worthwhile for them, and not cheat them, and tell them only part of what the actual truth was. So I'm gonna begin with a little bit of a description of how I go about it, and it won't all apply to you. So take what is useful, and discard the rest. I have a series of rituals, and they're very important to me because so much of what I do is uncharted territory. So if there are just a few things, I will never buy ground coffee because that would deprive me of one of my precious rituals, which is grinding the coffee in the morning. And again, that's not gonna be the magic bullet that will make your writing suddenly lyrical, and successful, and moving, and powerful. But it is important, when you wander into this dark wood, that you have a few things to hold onto.
Ratings and Reviews
Joyce Maynard will meet her writing students exactly where many of us find ourselves stranded: at that point in the road where our creative impulse and need for expression begins to lose breath but our sense of story and good writing habits may falter. Her teaching is a glorious, energetic, engaged alchemy of encouragement, permission for wild creativity, and feet-on-the-ground, pencil-to-paper, lessons for organizing and writing your own story. I left this incredible day empowered to tell mine, and totally unafraid to let go of what does not fit into the narrative. She gives concrete examples of good writing, shows you exactly why it's good, as well as hilarious bits of not-so-good writing. Yes, this is a memoir class, but the lessons are simply excellent rules for good writing. The syllabus is ambitious, but Ms. Maynard's practical magic is her gift to render all of this utterly do-able. I loved every minute, left inspired by the entire experience, and profoundly grateful for her wisdom and humor. Thank you!
This was a wonderful class, the best I’ve taken, even though I wasn’t there in person! Joyce is an inspiring teacher who makes you feel like your stories matter and guides you toward identifying which narratives to tell and how best to tell them — very few writing classes delve into the mechanics in this way and I really appreciated it. I also appreciated some of her more unusual advice — like that it’s important to think about what you want to write, sometimes for a long time, before you start. By going through students’ stories and providing lots of examples of the principles she teaches, you can see how to adapt the lessons to your own work, and I’ve already started doing so. I also found Joyce very compassionate about issues around privacy and shame and everything that comes up when people share personal stories, and very generous in sharing her own experiences so it’s clear she knows what she’s talking about. I recommend this class wholeheartedly.
Thank you so much for your brilliant course, Joyce Maynard. I am blown away by how much I've learned from you, and how warmly and joyfully you've imparted your wisdom, your skills as a writer and your own beautiful humanity. I am so grateful for this experience. You are not only a gifted storyteller, but a truly gifted teacher, and a delightful, inspiring human being. I hope to learn from you in person in Lake Atitlan at some point in the future.