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Finding the Words

Writing is hard.  It requires an understanding not just of what the writer wants to say, but also of what the reader wants to read or has the ability to understand.  Communication is usually a two way street.  When speaking, we naturally tailor our speech to our audience.  Church communication is different than home communication is different than a debate is different than a conversation between two close friends.  The listener, simply by being present, directs conversation almost as much as the speaker.  This natural process helps to engage both parties in communication and ensures that even if both sides aren’t speaking, both sides are shaping the conversation.

Writing, on the other hand, is a one way street.  When people write, they are putting down their thoughts as they hope the reader will understand.  It either takes extreme clarity of thought, or a work of creative empathy, guessing at the experiences, feelings, and understandings of the reader.  The best writing is both.  But because the audience in writing is mostly invisible at the moment of creating, the author has no real ability to gauge the reception of her work.

This may be obvious to the point of banality, but sometimes simple truths put things into perspective.  Perhaps this means we should all have more sympathy for professors who have to grade stacks of papers, each of which make their own blind stab at relevance and interest.  Perhaps it means professors should have more sympathy for their students who are trying to gauge, not just what they wish to write, but what their professor wants to read.  Perhaps it means being a little less critical of a weak Hollywood script.  Perhaps it means nothing at all.  But at very least, it cant hurt to be mindful of.

Writing is hard.  Have sympathy for those who do it frequently.

2 Responses to “Finding the Words”

  1. Gerald Schlabach Says:

    Having written a few books in my day, I can assure you that even books which take years to write are two-way conversations, maybe more. They are just long drawn out conversations, often with multiple conversation parties, that’s all.

    But yes, hard. Damn hard, sometimes.

  2. Jacob Schlabach Says:

    Thats a fair point. But even in that case, the conversation is between you and a smaller group than your hoped-for readership. Your back and forth, your two-way conversations certainly broaden the scope of the writing, but ultimately, even then, when you finally publish a finished form, you are releasing it with little ability to gauge the full reception.

    Which is not to say that those conversations aren’t vital and helpful, but it doesn’t change that writing is still a form of communication that is formed before it is tested, whereas speech, for example, is tested in real time.

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