Writing is Thinking and Thinking is Creativity Expressed

“Some say English instruction must get back to the basics, with a focus on grammar. But won’t that stifle a student’s personal voice?”

I saw this lede in The New York Times yesterday. 

I remember the movement by some probably well meaning, if overly sentimental, teachers who thought that first just let students of whatever age just write ideas and not worry about spelling or grammar. Then they would be creative.

That is just so much [crap].

Writing is communicating thoughts, ideas, opinions. It may be in prose, fiction, or poetry. All can be creative. 

In poetry writing (I’ve actually published a couple in my life), you learn that free verse is the hardest to write because it is too easy to drift. You learn to write in a structure, and it sets you free. Try writing Haiku. Three lines–five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Or write in ballad structure. It is great practice for the mind.

Use an outline or mind map to organize thoughts. When someone reads what you say, they can understand where you’re going.

Grammar is important for conveying meaning.

A bear walks into a bar. He orders a sandwich and eats it. Pulls out a gun. Shoots the bartender. Leaves. He left a guide book to bears on the bar. It said–Bears eat, shoots, and leaves. (There is a book by that title.) Had it said bears eat shoots and leaves, the meaning would be entirely different. And the bartender wouldn’t be nursing a bullet wound.

Clear thinking and clear writing may not be a spiritual discipline as defined by my guides–Richard Foster and Dallas Willard–but it should be.

God knows this. A long time ago he was forming a society out of a group of people raised as slaves. He gave them the 10 commandments and other laws to teach them how to live. Later he said that the laws should be written on their hearts–in other words we live out the rules as a natural part of our lives. From structure to freedom.

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