Richard Nordquist’s blog entry, “Ten Pros on Prose” lists 10 accomplished writers (including the likes of Joyce Carol Oates and E.B. White) who have written about their craft. Hyperlinks direct readers to additional blogs that “nutshell” each writer’s thoughts on writing.
In the first of these blogs, which focuses on Italian writer Natalia Ginzburg, Nordquist addresses the point of achieving greatness as a writer. According to Nordquist, Ginzburg never thought about becoming a great writer (as in iconic), but she did want to be thought of as a “great small writer,” someone who simply works very hard at her craft and who “above all, wants to be understood.” That’s a sound philosophy for all writers—in the workplace, in school, or at home.
An intriguing, as well as amusing, part of this blog entry for me is the opening quotation by author Frank Harris: “I am, really, a great writer, my only difficulty is in finding great readers.” Of course, Harris had his tongue squarely planted against his cheek when he made this comment. Yet, from my experience as a nonfiction writer, I can’t help but find a fundamental truth (with a lowercase t) embedded in his words. And it is as follows: “Good writers know the importance of connecting with their readers.” To make this vital connection, all writers, including you, should follow these tips:
Start from a Position of Strength
As Kurt Vonnegut states, “You’ve got to be a good date for the reader,” meaning you have to work at your writing if you want to make a good impression. The process starts, according to Vonnegut, with “finding a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about.” Doing otherwise makes about as much sense as taking up golf when, in your heart of hearts, you really want to play tennis.
Work from a Position of Authority
Learn as much as you can about your subject before attempting to write about it. While doing your research, you’ll naturally ask yourself “What do my readers want or need to know?” Let this question serve as your researching guide. Also keep writer Donald Murray’s insight in mind, “Readers hunger for specific information,” including facts, brief quotations, anecdotes, examples, and so on.
Write from a Position of Confidence
Someone once offered this simple, but insightful, observation: “Writing comes more easily if you have something to say.” If you have done the necessary research and reporting, then you will, indeed, “have something to say.” How you actually share this information depends on the intended reader and the purpose of your writing. Just know that the best writing is engaging and informative, enjoyable to read and enlightening. “Good writing,” writer William Zinsser states, “has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next.”
Revise from a Position of Commitment:
No writer gets everything right the first time, or even the second or third times. Keep that point in mind when you review your writing. If you feel strongly about your subject and your readers, you will want to change any parts that still need work.
“There is no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.”
Edit from a Position of Pride
And lastly, make sure to check your writing for accuracy before you go public with it. Clean, accurate copy indicates that you care about your readers, and want to make their reading experience an enjoyable one.