Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Writing is writing

I’ve been writing a fair bit lately and it’s been really lovely. (It also means that not much graphic design work is coming through the door, but that’s another story.) Lately, there have been a few good postings from my blogmates about the “art of writing” and I’d like to supply an interesting take on exactly what that means.

It brings to mind a conversation I had recently with another writer, who does mostly non-fiction, some copywriting, and occasionally, bits of poetry. It is his feeling that no matter what kind of writing one is doing (emails, letters, the next great novel, whatever), it is exercising the “writing muscle” in your brain. From my side, I was positing that day-to-day type writing isn’t exercising much of anything.

This prompted a long monologue from my worthy debating adversary, and he obviously had thought a lot on the topic. It really made me stop and think. Just what is “writing”?

The basic premise of his thesis was this: it depends on how you do it. More specifically, it depends on how much care/craft you bring to bear on it. With daily life going at the crazy speed it does these days – and increasing in speed every year, it seems – we often dash off emails and notes that are just incredibly poor examples of the craft of writing. With texting, nearly anything goes. Few seem to use caps anymore. There are all sorts of shortcut things (I’m talking emoticons and abbreviations like “LOL”) that really don’t express much of anything other than the fact that you’re not really bringing much care to expressing your thoughts. To my friend, they’re the equivalent of, “Your call is really important to use, please hold…”.

I think he has a very good point. In our rushed lives, we use lack of time as an excuse to not exercising our brains while in the act of communicating.

And that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it? What’s wrong with taking an extra bit of time to re-read what we’ve written, fix the errors, and improve the quality of the writing as well as clarifying your thoughts. It’s what we writers do all the time with our “work prose”, isn’t it? For me, that’s the really enjoyable part of sticking words together. I love to go through my sentences, grooming them, digging for better ways to clearly and distinctively share my thoughts, state my purpose. To be honest, that’s one of the joys I get from the three blogs in which I take part. Each requires a completely different style of writing.

So for the past half-hour, I have been working on my craft, because each time I put words to thoughts, I’m practising. If I’m paying real attention to the craft behind my words, then I’m improving as a writer, aren’t I?


Angela Ackerman said...

Very true. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. Too many writers want to rush the process, when we really do need time to grow our craft.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm re-reading some of my books on writing. I didn't understand a lot the first time around because I didn't have the hands on experience.

j welling said...

"If I’m paying real attention to the craft behind my words, then I’m improving as a writer, aren’t I?"

I agree with this 100%. I believe in my heart it is true. In just a little corner of my brain, I also hope desperately it is true.

I'd be crushed otherwise.

Rick Blechta said...

Mssr. Welling, it is true, I can assure you.

And above is a perfect example. I could have taken the more normal way out "Mssr. Welling, I can assure you it is true." but the statement has a bit more gravitas which is what I meant to convey. And yes, I did consider for a bit before deciding to write it this way, proving the thesis behind my blog post.