I've just read Victor J Banis's excellent post on How to write M/M fiction
(or rather just: How to Write), over at jessewave's blog, and it really got me thinking.
Firstly, he mentions listening to music as being a way of improving your writing - at school, I dropped English as a subject as soon as I could (age 16) but continued with Music until 18, when I left for University. I have an A Level grade C in Music, and I'm a damn sight more proud of that than I am of the B's I got in Maths and Physics (yes, I'm old enough to have done A levels before these weirdo new AS/A2 thingys came in, and in the subjects I took, Music was the most traditional).
...Anyway, to put it succintly: I have a fairly good grounding in classical music. My immediate thought on reading Mr Banis's comments on music was "perhaps that's why I get so hung up about the rhythm of my writing?" because I do, especially if the characters are talking in bed (/on the floor/up against a wall/in a lift ;-)
Following on from that, I went back to the old question of why
could I not wait to drop English? I've always been a fairly prolific reader (and, like many other people, reading books which were supposedly way too advanced for my age) and I'm fairly sure I first announced my intention to become a writer before I left infant school. This enthusiasm continued - and was encouraged - by my junior school teachers, but then... I've never been able to figure out what happened at secondary school. I have certain memories (like seeing the first book we would be studying and thinking "I stopped reading books like this when I was 7" - the previous year, our class had been deconstructing Tolkein poems and greek myths in an effort to improve our storytelling...).
Coming back to today, this sudden insight caused by the linking of writing to music made me stop and think about the teaching methods I experienced in the different subjects. One thing I always, always
hated about english lessons was the way they would go "Here's a really good book/play/story" and then pull it to pieces so we could see how the author had done it... but in doing that, we (or at least: I) couldn't see what
the author had done.
What I'm on about is the method used where the teacher says "This term we're studying Macbeth", so lesson 1 the class read through / listen to the first scene. And then - immediately - it starts getting analysed, and notes have to be added to the text, and discussions are demanded about why such-and-such a word was used instead of this-other-one... and actually, you're lucky if you even get to the end of scene 1 before this starts happening...
Contrast this with studying Brahms's Violin Concerto for A level music:
Lesson 1: play CD of Brahms's Violin Concerto. Discuss immediate reactions to the piece.
Lesson 2: play the 1st movement. Discuss use of contrasts, orchestration etc. Identify 1st theme and mark on the score.
Do you see what I mean?
Ok, yes, I know
there's a time element involved, but if you let people experience the full extent of something first, before
you analyse it, they will likely be far more tolerant to your picking it apart. AND - perhaps more importantly - they will be far more likely to come back to it as adults.
As both a reader and an aspiring writer, it really upsets me how few people will turn to a book for an evening's pleasure, and I really can't stop myself from blaming it on english teaching destroying the joy of reading.