It takes a certain amount of courage for a teacher, who was taught in a certain way, and who in turn has taught in the same manner, to rethink his methods and to change the way he teaches a craft (or art). And this is precisely what John Warner has done. After a decade of teaching writing, Warner re-thought his technique and practice and decided to change the way he teaches. That change led to this book.
I haven’t been a student for over 30 years, so I can’t say how this compares with what others are teaching, but I found the general approach to be refreshing and motivating. Warner explains some of the changes he’s made to his curriculum and why (what I found most unusual is not requiring a research paper at the end of the class – though his rationale made much sense).
Really what this book is, is a workbook. This is detailed lesson plans, with explanations as to why and how this might help, that the reader can immediately put into practice. It is also a really valuable resource for writing teachers and I can imagine a few will teach directly from this book.
My interest was caught up early on when Warner discussed “flow.” Quoting psychologist Mihay Csikszentmihalyi who described “flow” this way:
The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times. . . . The best moments usually occur if a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Warner then describes it: “Writing is thinking, and flow is a period of extremely elevated thinking that hardly feels like you’re thinking at all.”
This is something I’ve thought about but never seen put so succinctly into words, and of course that had me eager to see what else he’d present.
This is a great resource, especially for the beginning writer, though anyone who has ever faced writer’s block might find some useful exercises here to help get them out of a rut.
This book targets non-fiction writing, but developing stronger writing skills will be helpful in any format.
I’m typically pretty suspicious of books that are writing self-help books, but I’m always on the lookout for a truly helpful such book. This may just be the book that really will be helpful to the young writer.
Looking for a good book? The Writer’s Practice by John Warner is a wonderful resource for writing teachers, and helpful workbook for writers looking to strengthen their writing skills.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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The Writer’s Practice: Building Confidence in Your Nonfiction Writing
author: John Warner
publisher: Penguin Books
paperback, 256 pages