Sunday, January 2, 2011

Truthful Writing

Writing is having something to say. It may be prior or it may be discovered in-process, but it shows up at some point. Good writing is stating what you have to say - not just saying what sounds impressive. Readers can tell the difference, and smart writers will respect them for it.

Maybe these rules will help us understand the writing-editing process:

1. Identify What You Have To Say.
2. Say it.
3. Do not say other fancy stuff that is unrelated to What You Have To Say.

Now this is of course oversimplified, but I hope the point is clear. Most writers do not need encouragement to decorate their writing; they need encouragement to pare it down. Aspiring wordsmiths tend to treat writing like a parade competition: the float with the most streamers wins. Developing a sense of taste takes time and discipline.

This is also true in music. Less accomplished musicians are likely to play right up to the edge of their skill, whether it sounds good or not. We've all heard people like that. Mature musicians subject their skill to serve the aural experience of their audience. They've learned it's the music that matters, which means people enjoy listening to them, which means they are respected as musicians. When you lose your life, you find it.

Whether we are playing music or writing essays, simplicity is a form of honesty - a form of telling the truth.

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