Your Job As a Writer: Think Like a Child Again, Make People See the Fish

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With the 90th Anniversary 2010 issue of WD shipping to subscribers as we speak and hitting newsstands Dec. 15, we’re nearing the end of the Top 20 Tips from WD in 2009 series. (Who will nab No. 1? Will it be shocking, incredible or anti-climactic? Will it dazzle or dismay? Stay tuned for Friday!)

At No. 2, here is a ponder-worthy duo from Joshua Henkin.

No. 2: See the World With New Eyes
“A friend of mine in college wrote her psychology thesis on how adults group objects versus how children group objects. Adults group the apple with the banana, and children group the monkey with the banana. This is another way of saying that children are more natural storytellers than adults. One of my jobs as a writer, and as a professor of writing, is to teach myself and others how to think like children again—albeit like smart, sophisticated children.”
—Writer and teacher Joshua Henkin, from the September 2009 issue of WD (Check it out here).

And, because I couldn’t choose between the two:

“John Cheever once said he would never use three words in a row that he’d seen used in a row before, which is why he called a bruise “blue and black” instead of “black and blue.” The first time someone used the phrase “like a fish out of water,” you saw the fish. Now no one sees the fish. And one of the purposes of writing is to make people see the fish.”

Also, a shout-out to Promptly heroes Mark James and Martha W., who took on a challenge to respond to every November prompt. Check out their eclectic stories (alongside those of other writers) in the Comments section of the posts below. Thanks for writing here, Mark and Martha!



Feel free to take the following prompts home or post your responses (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

“This cab ride isn’t over.”
“But it is?”
Nearby, a man treads water and the full moon rises.


Bonus Prompt (to make up for the Thanksgiving tech blackout):

Their tan lines spelled out an unexpected—and unparalleled—message.


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