Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Easy Writing Makes Hard Reading

Writing well is simply hard work. Earnest Hemingway said it best: “Easy writing makes hard reading.”

I will never forget one of my English professors whose daily habit was to open class in prayer. One of her requests was simply “to be clear.”

We as writers would do well to pray for clarity of writing. We should not write to impress. We should write with clarity of message and with simplicity of meaning that readers can relate to and appreciate.
Easier said than done. Writing in such a way that reading becomes effortless is in fact, hard.
Music presents an analogy that speaks to this reality. Having sung in choirs since I was thirteen, I can appreciate the importance that practice plays. Soloists and instrumentalists often puts hours of preparation into their music. During a well-polished performance, the audience simply listens and lets the music speak to them. Their focus is on the song, the melody, and the words. And that’s as it should be. However, the music can get lost in the performance when the musician makes a mistake – misses an entrance, forgets the words, or sings a flat note.  
The same is true with writing. When readers pick up a well-written book, they become so involved in the story that they hardly notice how the words sound on the page. On the other hand, the reader gets distracted when grammar isn’t right or the wording becomes clunky. In this case, the story becomes lost in the medium of the English language due to a sloppy presentation.
That said, we could shift the words around in Hemingway’s quote to say, “Hard writing makes easy reading.” The same is equally true.
Therein lies a challenge for every writer – the challenge to write well so that the story doesn’t get muddied by mechanics.
So go write hard.

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