on writing well

May 27, 2008

I love words. I love the way that words can shape mental images and sway opinions. Because of this, I can recognize the bias behind what I’m about to tell you. (But I think I’m right anyway.) Writing is the foundation for creative expression.

It doesn’t matter what medium you choose, good creative expression is an expression of you. Art that is engaging is art that offers the soul of the artist. Writing is a means for each of us to be in touch with our own soul. And that is why it is so hard sometimes. But that is also why it is a discipline worth developing.

Over the past few months, I worked my way through On Writing Well, by William Zinsser. It is one of the classics about the art of writing, filled with practical advice on how to write more gooder. (See what I mean?)

But through all that practical advice, one theme stands out: writing is a personal transaction. The more you are present, the better it is. I’ve already posted one quote that emphasizes this. Here are two more, from early and late in the book:

  • “Sell yourself, and your subject will exert its own appeal. Believe in your own identity and your own opinions. Writing is an act of ego, and you might as well admit it. Use its energy to keep yourself going.” (pg. 24)
  • “My commodity as a writer, whatever I’m writing about, is me. And your commodity is you. Don’t alter your voice to fit your subject.” (pg. 233)

For some, writing might be limited to a personal exercise in the form of daily pages. Fair enough. But for most of us, the way we craft our words is critical to how we find and offer our voice. As your voice becomes more clear, your ideas and images become more engaging.

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