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05 July 2006 @ 11:23 am
 
From Paul Graham's latest essay:

When I was in high school I spent a lot of time imitating bad writers. What we studied in English classes was mostly fiction, so I assumed that was the highest form of writing. Mistake number one. The stories that seemed to be most admired were ones in which people suffered in complicated ways. Anything funny or gripping was ipso facto suspect, unless it was old enough to be hard to understand, like Shakespeare or Chaucer. Mistake number two. The ideal medium seemed the short story, which I've since learned had quite a brief life, roughly coincident with the peak of magazine publishing. But since their size made them perfect for study in high school classes, we read a lot of them, which gave us the impression the short story was flourishing. Mistake number three. And because they were so short, nothing really had to happen; you could just show a randomly truncated slice of life, and that was considered advanced. Mistake number four. The result was that I wrote a lot of stories in which nothing happened except that someone was unhappy in a way that seemed deep.

Y'know, that man can write.
 
 
 
IANALqueen_elvis on July 5th, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
You know, that was really true, and yet I never before thought about how formal education has biased the way I look at writing. My inability to write a short story (due to excessive novel consumption) has always bugged me.
Noahangelbob on July 5th, 2006 08:00 pm (UTC)
I recommend his other essays, specifically one called "The Age of the Essay" and maybe "What You'll Wish You'd Known", for similar insights. He's a really good writer.