Writing Without Teachers

Tonight I have browsed my 25th anniversary edition of Peter Elbow’s book, Writing Without Teachers.  I felt almost too tired to have thoughts of my own, so I read.  For your writing musings, dear reader, here’s an excerpt [p 53]:


Interaction between metphors is interaction of the most fine-grained, generative sort.  make as many metaphors as you can.  And alalogies, comparisons, examples.  encourage them.  Let them roll off your pencil freely.  Too much.  They produce interaction and cooking just as in the interaction between people or ideas.  When you make a metphor, you call something by the wrong name.  If you make a comparison an analogy, or an example, you are thinking of something in terms of something else.  There is always a contradictions.  You are not just calling a house a house, but rather a playground, a jungle, a curse, a wound, a paradise.  Teach throws into relief aspects of the house you might otherwise miss.  You are seeing one thought or perception through the lens of another.  Here again is the essence of cooking.  As in all cooking, new ideas and and perceptions result.  connections are loosened so that something may develop or grow in whatever its potential directions are.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are a “literal-minded person” who doesn’t make metaphors:  such people don’t exist.  It is well demonstrated that everyone dreams, and dreams are nothing but metaphors, comparisons, analogies, and examples.  If you find it hard to use them, it meerely means you are out of the habit of listening to them.  Make the ones you can and keep trying to hold your mind open to register the others that are there.

There ends the passage, although Mr. Elbow’s advice goes on…

Metaphors.  That seems a good exercise.  Make more metaphors.

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