“I gained an immense advantage over the cleverer boys. They all went on to learn Latin and Greek and splendid things like that. But I was taught English.” Winston Churchill
Affectionately known as “Winnie,” both Churchill’s speeches and his prose are widely d mired the world over for their elegant and magisterial style. I just came across a book of his called “My Early Life: A Roving Commission.” In it he shares his musings on writing:
“I began to see that writing, especially narrative, was not only an affair of sentences, but of paragraphs. Indeed I thought the paragraph no less important than the sentence….Just as the sentence contained one idea in all its fullness, so the paragraph should embrace a distinct episode; and as sentences should follow one another in harmonious sequence, so the paragraphs must fit on to one another like the automatic couplings of railway carriages.
“Chapterisation also began to dawn on me. Each chapter must be self-contained. All the chapters should be of equal value and more or less of equal length. Some chapters definite themselves naturally and obviously; but much more difficulty arises when a number of heterogeneous incidents none of which can be omitted have to be woven together in what looks like an integral theme.
“Finally the work must be surveyed as a whole and due proportion and strict order established form beginning to end. I already knew that chronology is the key to easy narrative. I already realized that ‘good sense is the foundation of good writing’….
“It was great fun writing a book. One lived with it. It became a companion. It built an impalpable crystal sphere around one fo interests and ideas. In a sense one felt like a gold fish in a bowl; but in this case the goldfish made his own bowl. This came along everywhere with me. It neve got knocked about in traveling, and there was never a moment when agreeable occupation was lacking. Either the glass had to be polished,or the structure extended or contracted, or the walls required strengthening.
“I have noticed in my life deep resemblances between many different kinds of things. Writing a book is not unlike building a house or planning a battle or painting a picture. The technique is different, the matrials are different, but the principle is the same. The foundations have to be laid, the data assembled, and the premises must bear the weight of their conclusions. Ornaments or refinements may then be added. The whole when finished is only the successful presentation of a theme.”
I love Churchill’s no-nonsense view of writing, don’t you? He approaches it as a craftsman and learns as he goes. A great attitude to embrace as we all write on.