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How Easy Is Writing?

28 Mar

Writing is like cooking: it can be easy or hard.

It’s easy to cook this:

Fried Egg

It’s hard to cook this:

Fancy Food

its vry easy 2 rite like dis.

It’s a little harder to write like this.

It’s even harder to realize that the previous sentence has no clear agent. Who is having “a little harder” time writing? I suppose the understood subject is “you,” as in “It’s a little harder for you to write like this.” But if the writer’s job is to conjure images in the reader’s mind, that sentence fails. When I read it, even with “you” added, it barely stirs my senses. It’s a stale cookie of a sentence.

One problem is “a little harder,” which is flat and boring phrase. I don’t really know what “a little harder” means, aside from some vague sense of hardship.

Vagueness tends to suffuse tossed-off writing. To inject specificity into prose, you have to pay close attention to each word and phrase, replacing abstractions, wherever you can, with bursts of magenta, honking car horns, hairs on the tongue, hands on a silky thigh, and the scent of almond: anything sensual that jars the brain into projecting a movie on its internal screen.

How about “You’ll have to struggle to write like this”?

It’s better. But only “struggle,” and, to some extent, “write” are imagistic. “You’ll have to” and “like this” flatline on the page or screen.

“I struggle to write like this” is sharper, because it collapses three words “You’ll have to” into one: “I.” And it hurries us along to the star of the sentence, the verb “struggle.”

How about “I struggle writing sentences like this”?

Much better! I’m not just engaged in amorphous writing; I’m writing sentences.

So the answer to this question is that writing is easy if one’s goal is simply to string words together in a way that most people can generally understand—understand without feeling tickled, punched, or fucked.

It’s hard if one has a clear aesthetic and is determined to forge prose that meets its standards.

 

Source: Marcus Geduld

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Writing

 

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