Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process

Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process

Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process

Writing with Power: Techniques for Mastering the Writing Process


A classic handbook for anyone who needs to write, Writing With Power speaks to everyone who has wrestled with words while seeking to gain power with them. Here, Peter Elbow emphasizes that the essential activities underlying good writing and the essential exercises promoting it are really not difficult at all. Employing a cookbook approach, Elbow provides the reader (and writer) with various recipes: for getting words down on paper, for revising, for dealing with an audience, for getting feedback on a piece of writing, and still other recipes for approaching the mystery of power in writing. In a new introduction, he offers his reflections on the original edition, discusses the responses from people who have followed his techniques, how his methods may differ from other processes, and how his original topics are still pertinent to today's writer. By taking risks and embracing mistakes, Elbow hopes the writer may somehow find a hold on the creative process and be able to heighten two mentalities--the production of writing and the revision of it. From students and teachers to novelists and poets, Writing with Power reminds us that we can celebrate the uses of mystery, chaos, nonplanning, and magic, while achieving analysis, conscious control, explicitness, and care in whatever it is we set down on paper.


I direct this book to a very broad audience. I'm not trying to tailor my words to beginning or advanced writers in particular, or to students, novelists, professional people, pleasure writers, or poets. Perhaps I shouldn't try to talk to so many different kinds of people, yet in truth I feel my audience is very specific. I am talking to that person inside everyone who has ever written or tried to write: that someone who has wrestled with words, who seeks power in words, who has often gotten discouraged, but who also senses the possibility of achieving real writing power.

I've learned how to take more control over my writing while still giving it free rein. . . . I've learned the value of not expecting a twelve year old child to come out when you're giving birth to a baby; that any writing needs time after its birth so it can change and grow and eventually reach its potential. I've come to realize that you most probably won't find a pearl if you only pick up oysters once a year. So I will try to write a lot -- a whole lot -- and not expect that every piece emerge a gem. I'll learn to put up with (maybe even enjoy) the bad stuff, remembering that the more I do of it, the closer I get to coming out with something good. When I feel that a good idea has emerged, but I don't know where to follow it, I won't feel that it's a lost cause- that its moment has passed. I'll let it sit for a while and then go back to it with renewed energy until I can make something whole out of it, or decide that I've gone as far as I can with it.


This is part of a self-evaluation written by a student at the end of a course I recently taught. It says what I hope readers will be able to . . .

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