Goals of Writing
· To Surprise
· To Entertain
· To Communicate
Writing is functional. We write toward goals (see above).
Poets (if anyone cares) write in the beguiling wonder and agitation of words—the surprise of discovery (or the discovery of surprise).
To entertain, one writes with oneself as the meter measuring the entertainment, i.e., if I laugh or feel thrilled then it succeeds.
In writing to communicate, one seeks strong, clear ways of saying.
All writing strives to solve a problem. The writer writes for a reader. The reader is imaginary, even when we know the audience (for instance, a personal letter).
To bring the circles together, we must use the same language. To bring the circles even closer, intent must be understood on both sides.
A system assumption exists here, that the reader understands the writer, and the writer understands the reader.
The reader may “get something” from the writer’s work, but does not (cannot) share the endeavour of the writer’s intent.
The writer may sense the reader’s participation (albeit in a place outside the act of actual reading) but ultimately the writer writes to an imaginary friend.
Basic communication in the sense of imparting information and opinion demands the courage of one’s vocabulary.
The vocabulary of language is shared—we have dictionaries and grammars to self-police ourselves—but we must trust our own invention rather than the received broadcast (and ‘wisdom’) of inherited locutions.
Our ideas become muddled when we use other people’s words.
This sounds lofty but it is absolutely practical.
Our insight, our opinions, our ideas need our words. To speak or write well means reaching across the chasm with our hand, not someone else’s. The resulting touch is electric and personal.
Many of us haphazardly find our ‘style’, an effective way to ‘get across’. Many more of us, however, fail to perceive that the connection and communication of their attempts are thin and partial.
We all must realize the implicit contract in words. When we speak or write, we obey the strictures of meaning—or we do not, lazily settling for a simulation of the connection.
Vocal tone and body language supply speech with support that writing lacks. We must be resolute in writing, not trusting merely our intent but the exacting action of our communication.
The political hem and haw that we hear daily and continually drowns the pure savour of what we mean. We end up rifling thru worn phrases that have lost their charge, expecting others to receive the spark that we intended.
Writing well is an act of singular dignity. Humbly present your words to the latent reader.