Friday, May 18, 2007

On Writing Muscle

Writing can sometimes become an obsession. That is when you cannot get down to do the writing. At times it is one of the hardest things to do. As an educator, I have to double check myself when one often as a matter of routine insist on students submitting their work in writing. Good writing and creative writing can be very demanding. Academic writing has its own conventions and styles. Increasingly I find the best writing to be without jargon, yet profound. Although I also recognize that jargon is shorthand in order to communicate very complex ideas and eases discussion within an in-group where people understand and share the common language.

But to write profoundly requires a mastery of the craft of writing. It also means one is reading the work of accomplished authors and learning from their styles and methods. Stephan Jay Gould, for instance, with his simplicity of style managed to communicate effectively with his readers. I still find William H. Gass to be one of the most profound writers, who can weave complex ideas from Nietzsche's philosophy to Holderlin's hymns into digestible prose. In fact, I envy his skill and talent.

To become a writer one would profit to heed the advice of Gail Sher in One Continuos Mistake: Four Noble Truths for Writers. Sher writes:

1. Writers write.
2. Writing is a process
3. You don't know what your writing will be until the end of the process. (I thought it was only me!)
4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is not to write.

This is very true. Sher cites the poet John Ashberry who once told an interviewer, "It's important to try and write when you are in the wrong mood or the weather is wrong. Even if you don't succeed you'll be developing a muscle that may do it later."

Well the weather is cool today and my mood, well, I have been struggling all morning to get to my writing. So blogging is one way to develop a writing muscle.

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