Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 24, 1907, Children’s Corner: How to Write a Composition

There are but few things more trying on a child than writing his first composition.

It usually takes him about a week to select his subject or rather to make choices among a dozen subjects already selected. The next thing after selecting his subject is to find something to write. He will dip his pen in the ink and sit and think while big thoughts pass through his mind, none of which seems to suit him, while he again and again dips in the ink. I seldom see a fellow fishing in the ink stand for ideas but I think of the city man who came out to the country to fish; he came as usual, well equipped with fine fishing tackle; he drove up to a nice pond and with a great deal of dignity arranged himself on the bank for fishing, he unrolled his line, sent his hook to the middle of the pond and waited for a bite. When the wind stirred the waves he would lift his line suddenly to see if he actually had a bite. A farmer passed that way and asked what he was doing. Fishing, sir, was the answer. When the farmer laughed outright, and said no use fishing there, there never was a fish in that pond. So there is no use in fishing in the inkstand for ideas, there never was an idea in the ink stand. I know that from experience. I have dipped in there many a time. The better plan is to write the first thoughts that present themselves, then others will come which he may continue to write, and the faster he writes, the faster the thoughts will come until he will not be able to write fast enough. The reason we do not write is not because we can’t think but because we want better ideas than we can think. The better way is to write the thoughts as they come and then go through and pencil such sentences as we do not want, leaving the better ones. When, after a little revision we will be surprised how well we have done. It is well after defining the subject to separate it into its different herds or branches and deal with each sub topic separately. For instance: he takes animals for his subject, he will see that it can readily be divided into two parts, domestic, or tame animals, and wild animals, naming each in turn and dwelling at length upon each species until he could almost spin his composition indefinitely. Almost any subject is capable of being divided into parts which will aid the writer very much in treating it.

As for the Children’s Corner, you will pardon me if I name a few subjects that might be written up by way of practice. I would analyze several of them myself, but we are taking up too much of Mr. Barrall’s valuable space. Parents would do well to help the children a little along this line. These are easy subjects for beginners when divided into parts: Education, friendship, visiting, farming, teaching, city and country life, flowers, flowers, school life, pets, trees, etc.

The children join me in thanking Mr. Barrall for the courtesy he has shown us.

C. W. R. (C. W. Ridgway)

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