Writing is easy. Writing well is hard. It takes concentration, discipline, and attention to detail. More than anything else, it takes time. It doesn’t matter if what you’re doing is fiction or non-fiction, feature or fantasy. Anything that can be written has almost certainly been written poorly. But not everything that can be written has been written well. And there’s the challenge.
Technical writing is often cited as the most tedious of all written work, yet I’ve done software documentation that was actually quite readable. At some hideous moment in the darkest annals of technical writing history, someone — probably an overpaid, middle management type — decided that “serious” and “professional” were synonymous with “boring.” Engineers and software designers, it was decreed, must not be allowed to add humor, sarcasm, or even rhyming words to their written work lest it be perceived as something less than the scientific version of holy writ. What utter crap. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth writing well.
One might argue that scientific types, engineering types and others of a serious and/or scholarly mindset, are rarely capable of writing anything in a lighthearted manner. But that’s absurd. The ability to think clearly and rationally doesn’t preclude the ability to see the humor in everyday life, or anything else. Why must the difficulty of the subject matter relieve the person writing about it to slack off? Why can’t the writing be as worthy as the topic?
Good writing doesn’t have to be humorous, of course, but it ought to be understandable at the very least. And it must be readable. Great hoary blocks of unrelieved text composed of never-ending sentences, convoluted grammar, and passive constructs shouldn’t ever be the goal. At its very heart, good writing is communicative. If it fails at that, what’s the point?
Scholarly work needn’t be so attentive to the subject that no attention is paid to the fundamental reason for the written description. Being obtuse doesn’t make something profound. It only makes it a greater chore to wade through than it has to be. A writer’s primary job is to connect with readers. It applies to memoir writing, fiction writing, speech writing, and all the other kinds of writing you can think of!
I’ve read humorous obituaries. I hope my own will make readers smile, even if I have to write it myself, which, now that I think of it, isn’t a bad idea. I have no doubt that doing so will require a significant amount of effort. I won’t be able to just sit down and dash off something that’ll do the job. It’ll take concentration, discipline, and attention to detail. It’ll also take time.
But I’m okay with that. Good writing is worth it.