When I lived in Venezuela and later in Italy, I taught English as a second language, first to High School students, then later to professionals. But I didn't continue teaching when I moved to the US as the opportunities presented to me were in a different direction.
A few months ago a friend asked me to teach creative writing and composition to her teen-age daughter. It wasn't until our first class was over that I realized how much I enjoyed teaching. I currently have two students, and might take a third one time permitting, as I think I am actually learning more about writing as I teach than I have in any workshop or published work I have ever done. It just shows you how sharing and giving can turn into receiving. In my last class I was practicing writing fiction in the third person point of view, and using dialog as a way to show and not tell to move the story forward.
What I learned:
· When writing, we all think we are showing the reader, however when we are reading, we realize we were actually telling. I was trying to give my student an example of showing - I wrote something quickly out of the top of my head. My student, being the sharp young man he is, looked at me and said “How is this different than mine?” I was shocked by his question but once I read what I had written I realized that he was right; there was no difference.”
· Usually, showing instead of telling does not come natural, no matter how much experience you have as a writer. This proved to me that to show instead of tell, we have to hear, whether out loud or within our mind, what we are writing. You can do this by focusing and listening to what you are writing as you write, which is what I usually do when working on my book projects; or you can just read back what you wrote and change it as you go.
· Learning how to show more and tell less doesn't have to be that complicated. I just try to visualize what I want to say in my mind and then focus to generate it in writing in a way that would touch me if I was the reader. Here is an example of telling and showing as I share with you all a Susan moment I had last week:
Telling: I tried to take the avocado’s pit out with a knife but instead I pierced my left hand’s palm. I started screaming as the tears ran through my face, grabbed paper towels and held it tight to stop the bleeding. Somehow, I reached my phone and called my husband, sobbing and trying to endure the pain.
Showing: I was making an avocado salad for lunch and for some reason I decided to imitate Chef Bobby Flay’s technique to take the pit out of the avocado with a knife. The next thing I remember is standing over a blood splattered kitchen sink pressing a blood soaked paper towel on my left hand palm. Somehow I managed to get to my cell phone on the other side of the counter and dialed my husband’s number, he had never heard me cry.
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