Why I write

I spent years as a teacher, teaching students how to plan and write texts of various kinds. Many people asked me if I was planning to do any writing after I retired, and I always said no, I didn’t have anything to write. Through all those years, I’d somehow forgotten how I had been a writer. I wrote essays at school and at university; I wrote a research dissertation and a thesis; I wrote for the student newspaper while at the University of Liverpool and I reviewed science fiction for Foundation, the academic journal of the Science Fiction Foundation, for several years…

So I started my blog. I review whatever I read; I don’t think there are more than a handful of books I’ve read and not written about since I started. Writing helps me think, and makes me seek out comparisons and links with other books I’ve read; it’s a discipline, if you like. I don’t know who I’m writing for, although I do now know some of my followers, who occasionally comment and feedback on what I’ve written, and whose thoughts and reactions I value, but there are dozens of others who visit various posts, I know not for what reason; I don’t know whether they like or loathe what they find here. But at the moment I enjoy doing it, so I shall continue, hoping that most people find something useful and of interest. Occasionally something prompts me to look back to my career in teaching, and to write something about how I taught.

The other thing I have done is to write some study guides, aids to help either students with their work, or teacher with theirs, in the field of English Literature. I have found that such tasks give me something to occupy my mind in the cold and wet winter months, as well as putting some of the materials I devised in my years of teaching to further use. So far, I’ve collaborated on a guide to R C Sherriff’s play Journey’s End, and written a student guide to The Handmaid’s Tale; currently I’m working on a guide to Antony and Cleopatra. And I find myself still using all the tactics and techniques for planning and writing that stood me in good stead in my younger days, and that I tried to impart to my own students.

I like to think that I write well and carefully, clearly and understandably; I try to resist the feeling that everything about the ways people write – spelling, grammar and punctuation – have all gone to pot over the years, but I am saddened by the lack of care taken over an awful lot of what appears in print nowadays, particularly in newspapers, but also increasingly in books. Our English language has unparalleled potential for clarity and precision of expression, and we should use it to the full.

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