In fact, lessons on ‘composition’ should follow the model of that famous essay on “Snakes in Ireland”––”There are none.” (Home Education p. 247)
Finished? Good, as it contains important background information, which I won't repeat here. What I want to talk about today comes from Michael Polanyi's book, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy, which was first published in 1958. In this book, Polanyi talks about two different levels of awareness: focal and subsidiary. The things that are in your focal awareness are the things that you are paying active attention to. The things in your subsidiary awareness are the things that you still need, but which are kept at the periphery of your attention. Polanyi gives several great examples. Are there any musicians out there? Think about when you are playing an instrument, say, a piano. Your are consciously focused on the sheet music in front of you; it is in your focal awareness. But your intimate familiarity with the keyboard and the muscle memory that allows you to know where to place your fingers are a part of your subsidiary awareness; that is, you are hardly aware of them, but they are still necessary. Now what happens if you shift your focal awareness from the sheet music to how your fingers are moving on the keyboard? Everything falls apart, right? The principle here is that there are lots of skills you need in order to play the piano well, but those skills must be kept in their proper spheres.
So what does this have to do with writing? Well, think about all the skills that are necessary to be able to write well: the grip of the pencil, the formation of the letters (or knowledge of the computer keyboard), the correct spelling of words, grammar, syntax, transitions, voice, style, and, finally, a good idea--that is, having something worthwhile to say. Let that sink in for a moment as you think about asking a six- or seven-year-old to write a story. No, seriously. Stop and think about it. In fact, I think I'll stop here for today and come back to this topic tomorrow to give you time. Look at the diagram below, and place all these writing skills where you think they best fit as you pour yourself another cuppa, and we'll talk more about it then. Many blessings on your day!