I love school. Love it! And so, I’ve decided to go back. Right now I’m applying to UMaine’s Master of Education in Literacy with a Concentration in Writing and the Teaching of Writing (phew! It’s a mouthful, I know.) While I wait to see if I’m accepted, I’m taking my first course appropriately titled Writing and the Teaching of Writing with Dave Boardman. We’re two weeks in and already I’m thinking in new ways about working with student writers and my own writing.
We each chose a book about teaching writing, and I chose Teaching the Neglected R: Rethinking Writing Instruction in Secondary Classrooms edited by Thomas Newkirk and Richard Kent. This line from a piece by Tom Romano stuck out to me: “Emphatic implicitness is what artists strive for — to be clear and meaningful without being heavy handed.” He acknowledges that this may seem like an oxymoron, but maintains its truth, and I agree. Writing needs to be clear enough that the reader gets the message without being directly told. Otherwise, we might as well read a treatise of the author’s opinions.
When I work with student writers, I often see the emphatic but not the implicitness. They have set up a beautiful scenario with realistic characters and bring it to a logical conclusion. Then they tell us what it was all about. The last sentence or so may not be as clear as a moral, but it tells you in no uncertain terms what the author’s intent was. I always cross out that last line and write: “Trust your readers!”
Writers also need to trust their own writing. We need to believe that we’ve written a work that can stand on its own without authorial explication. It’s easy to see in others’ writing, and easy to point out, but can be harder to spot and avoid in one’s own work. Lately I’ve been working on books for younger readers, and I need to remind myself that they don’t want things spelled out for them any more than an adult or a teen would.
Even small moments need space to be implicit. While the girls laughed, she stuffed her belongings into her bag. Not, She stuffed her belongings into her bag, ignoring the other girls, because even though she said she didn’t care what they thought, she really did. If the world is real, the readers will be able to figure out why characters do what they do, and will find the reading more satisfying because they were given this chance.
I’m thinking of starting a wall of reminders to keep by my writing desk. Emphatic implicitness will certainly go on there.