New perspective on some old advice

New perspective, new lenses, someone else’s eye: When you write about the same subject often, you need to keep it fresh. I recently came across a great example of that.

It’s writing advice. But writer Bob Hostetler tackles it from a new and amusing angle by giving us writing advice from Shakespeare.

In his piece “8 Ways William Shakespeare Can Make You a Better Writer,” a guest post on one of the Writer’s Digest blogs, Hostetler doesn’t break much new ground, content-wise. His excellent recommendations include study your craft, know your audience, use humor. The same writing advice you’ve read a million times from a million sources, including this blog. But he catches your eye—and perhaps your attention—with subheads that make liberal use of the pronoun “Thy.”

He doesn’t overdo the gimmick. After the first three subheads, he reverts to more modern language. And he backs up the concept with something meatier, too—weaving examples from Shakespeare’s life and work throughout, as here:

Do Something New

Shakespeare started his career where others did—imitating Chaucher [sic], Milton, Spencer, and others. He not only borrowed and stole from other writers (as everyone did back then), but also chose subjects to compete simultaneously with competitors’ plays. What set him apart from everyone else, however, were his powers of innovation. He invented new words. He coined memorable phrases. He took old plots and gave them new twists.

“He took old plots and gave them new twists.” Hostetler has done much the same thing here.

A new perspective taps a different part of your brain

Why is that important? A new perspective taps into a different part of your brain. It can capture your attention in a different way, or get you to hear something old as if for the first time. As Hostetler reminds us:

Whatever you’re writing, ask: what’s new about it? What’s fresh? Are you breaking new ground or at least putting a new twist on something?

If the answer to that last question is no, find something else to write about.

2 thoughts on “New perspective on some old advice

  1. Mary Ellen Williams '84

    I enjoy your blog. You may want to update this one to correct “Chaucher” to “Chaucer.” Enjoy your day, and thank you for encouraging people to write and speak better.

    • Elaine Bennett

      Mary Ellen, Thanks for your eagle eye! That typo is actually in some material I quoted, so I didn’t correct the spelling but did add a “[sic].” Though as you probably know, Chaucer’s own spelling was highly idiosyncratic, so I doubt he’d mind.

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