It’s not *supposed* to be easy! (Encore)

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

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 Elderly man posing on white backgroundto 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 literaturefundamental 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.


About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Memoir, novel writing, short fiction, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to It’s not *supposed* to be easy! (Encore)

  1. Spot on. Good and bad writing happens in all genres, and it’s up to you to find your own voice, no matter what it is you’re writing about. Thanks for sharing!

  2. sonyabravermanaolcom says:

    Nice piece, Josh. Wish more “serious” writers would produce more “readable” work.

  3. Erika says:

    Getting better?  And I’m not talking about your writing, we know it’s good (see below).  Take care of yourself, in a better world you would be officially declared a “valuable resource” and given all kinds of privileges.  Best to both of you, Erika

  4. Don says:

    In technical writing theoretically you don’t have to make stuff up. However, I did write a technical paper once and looking back it was junk. Should have just made stuff up. Enjoy reading your thoughts Josh, they make sense. Thanks

  5. Jina Bazzar says:

    Amen to that. A good writer is one who’ll make you look forward to reading even the obituaries, 😉

  6. Betty Smith says:

    “Writing well is hard. It takes concentration, discipline, and attention to detail. More than anything else, it takes time.” I put your comment on the cover of my notebook for The Displaced Lady… and tried my best to follow your wisdom. Will continue to do so, dear friend.

  7. Freddie Lloyd Blackwell says:

    Well stated! BTW, you should write your own Obituary. You have had a very productive and active life. You were the only person living it so who better to state it factually. I am a genealogist and I can state with certainty that most of what you will be remembered for in the distant future is that in your Obituary content, accurate or otherwise!

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