Author and Teacher Lament

I teach college students how to write, and so does my wife, Ellen. We have discovered that the “younger generation” has a deft ability to find its way around what used to be called the “Information Superhighway” (remember those optimistic days of yore?), yet they have little or no skill at being able to sit still long enough to focus. Does it seem to be a big stretch to assume they don’t spend a lot of time reading anything in depth? Many do not have the least bit of reading background in what we used to call the “classics.” They do not get involved much politically, and they certainly do not like to sit with a book for hours until they finish it (reading cover-to-cover in one sitting).

I heard a statement recently that I want to throw out to you: the Internet has created many would-be writers but not any new readers . I find this to be quite true. As part of the independent publishing phenomenon, I know there are many who wish to write, but there are also many more who really don’t have the talent to write.

What has been your experience with this “more writers than readers” problem? I would like to hear somebody who can verify or contradict my knowledge about this crazy reality we are witnessing in Cyberspace.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Author and Teacher Lament

  1. I don’t think the problem is specific to the millenial generation, but I certainly (when I taught high school English) had a lot of students who thought they could learn how to write without reading a lot.

    They ended up memorizing a lot of rules about grammar and syntax without having a sense of going beyond what’s “right” or “wrong” to what sounds natural or is the most effective communication.

  2. moonbeamwalker

    Cana’t talent be acquired with practice and some good sound advice?

    http://moonbeamwalker.wordpress.com/

  3. Jim Musgrave

    I tend to agree with both of these two comments. Real writing talent is learned by practice (similar to what Tony Gwynn did in baseball), but one must also recognize if one does not possess the imagination talent. Of course, this is for creative writers only. Often, my students think I have something against “them” because I critique their writing. They don’t have a clue about what’s been done with the written word by the real pros. And, sadly, that’s often “fine with them.”

  4. moonbeamwalker

    Thank you Jim for the good comment on my blog. I have since pass word protected most of my writings.

    I wanted to mention about the inability to focus – a snag of our modern society – bombarded with media and flashing lights – impulses and the likes – until there is no will left and hardly a brain to operate.

    It is easy to learn how to focus. Step one: go outside and sit in the backyard, patio, whatever, and watch the clouds. Sit until you think madness will soon take over your wiggling mind, sit and sit some more and watch the sky, the ants, a worm, anything and soon the mind is transformed and something quite alien happens – you expunge media mind control – and become human again.

    http://moonbeamwalker.wordpress.com/

  5. I think blanket statements can always be refuted in some way. Especially since you teach college students. The vast majority of college students care more about MySpace and AIM than about reading literature or actually learning something beyond what they need to pass a test.

    Funnily enough, I didn’t start to take writing seriously until I left college. Not graduated–left. Long story.

    Everyone says ‘kids’ have to grow up when they go to college because you can’t fool around and so forth, but really, I felt just as spoon-fed in college as I did in high school.

    Granted, a lot of would-be writers DO have trouble focusing and will never actually finish their so-called masterpiece. But then again, if everyone who started a book managed to both finish it AND publish it, there’d be no incentive for the rest of us to try so hard.

    On a similar subject, I found your blog on blogcatalog.com and I wanted to let you know about a new e-zine that me and a few writer friends are putting together.

    It’s called The Oddville Press.
    http://theoddvillepress.com/

    We’re just getting off the ground so our website isn’t completely finished yet. Still, you should check us out if you’re interested–or better yet, submit something!

    I’ve bookmarked your blog and will definitely be poking around on here more in the future.

    Thanks a bunch!

  6. I am also a college professor and I find my students are eager to read what I suggest and they write elegantly. Even more impressive is that they appear to write this way effortlessly. Their information fluency is amazing and their problem solving capacity is well beyond what mine was as an undergraduate. I need to come into the classroom with my A game on every week since I am competing with the entire World Wide Web while I teach. There’s no mailing it in – unless I’m teaching online. All in all, I am pleased with the students that I am privileged to teach. Still, I begin each semester with an announcement of my shoe size, just in case they are shopping online during class and come across something suitably “professorial” for me.

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