The joy of models

We’re writing our own short versions of Between the World and Me in class. The book, in many ways, becomes a model for the essay I want them to write.

Quote of the day: “I know you want us to write like Coates, but I’m not Coates.”

No doubt. I’m not either. All the activities we did culminated with the question — how does this book help us write our final pieces? I embedded this question in the reading logs. I asked it in class.

Here’s the thing, though: this is a hard, hard question and a hard thing to do: using a true master of the craft as a model and breaking down exactly what makes their work so exemplary. But it’s a real process you do in almost every discipline. What’s important is that the more creative and open-ended the work, the more you need to understand the structure to either work within it or reject it altogether.

I can’t remember if it’s Sven Birkerts or Francine Prose, but in one of their books they talk about copying a long section from a favorite author because the very act of doing so would would allow their prose to wear off on you. I hope that’s happening with Coates and Whitman.