Writing – the means to greater (and lesser) ends

In “I Want to Conquer the World,” veteran punk-rockers Bad Religion ask “is your fecundity a trammel or a treasure?” In my penultimate column, I shall attempt to answer this question with regard to producing written works.

Writing ultimately affords each of us a rope. Whether we use that rope to climb a mountain or to hang ourselves is largely within our discretion.

Those of us who choose to climb, however, would probably do well to realize that there are a few principles that should be heeded if we hope to reach the top.

Writing and thinking go hand in hand. If you aren’t prepared to analyze, criticize, reinvent or revisit your work, then by all means do not write. The notion that writing mystically springs “from the heart” is a malicious fabrication. Even that which is heartfelt and emotional in origin still undergoes an editing/filtering process between first draft and publication.

Often, this is done to save us from our own stupidity. Anyone can make an impassioned rant in the heat of the moment. Said rant is unlikely to survive scrutiny, however, after the moment has passed.

Next, writing is not speaking. There are a number of visual and auditory cues that we can utilize to convey meaning in casual conversation. These cues become lost when we make the translation to text. Writing therefore requires a tone that reflects the author’s true intentions.

This level of precision is not always easy to master. I took some criticism for last semester’s “Hookerific” column because I did not make it clear which parts of the piece were satirical and which parts were meant to be taken seriously.

As such, a misunderstanding ensued and the end result was not what I intended.

Had I been paying more attention, I’d have realized that writing does not allow us to clear our throats for emphasis or say certain things with a sly smile.

Lastly, writing requires us to actually want to write.

Often in academia, writing is borne from necessity rather than desire. No one of sane mind and body actually relishes the thought of putting together a 12-page paper.

Even still, we should at least be willing to commit ourselves to getting the job done. When writing is approached with a hostile or apathetic attitude, that hostility or apathy manifests itself in the work and diminishes its quality.

We might dislike writing papers, but we dislike getting lousy grades on papers we’ve written even more.

Depending on how we approach it, writing can either be a trammel to hold us back or a treasure that allows us to reach our fullest potential.

The most capable among us can easily be reduced to mounds of blabbering idiocy if they lack the fundamentals of effective written communication.

Similarly, the charlatans, the frauds and the know-nothings can con the best of us if they acquit themselves well in print.

Regardless of what field we enter or how often we actually need to do it, we should all know how to write.

Listening to Bad Religion doesn’t hurt either.