Friday, April 30, 2010

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Free-form Friday

The hardest thing about writing is being sure that your reader will get something from the marks on the page similar to what you had in mind when you made them.

I have a bit of a problem as a musician. You see, people listening to me play don't hear the music I think I'm playing. And if I listen to a recording of my performance, it isn't nearly as good as what I thought I played. This is generally not a problem since I never try to accompany anyone else.

But a writer faces a similar but more daunting challenge. Unlike playing music for someone where you can get some idea from their expression as to whether they're enjoying the music or not, a writer must encode ideas and mental images as words on a page in a medium that can be consumed at another time and place. There's little opportunity to respond to feedback once the words have been printed and distributed. Much of the art and craft of writing comes down to learning the techniques and conventions that have been generally successful at conveying ideas to readers.

Put more simply, figuring out what I want to say is often easier than figuring out how to say it so that you'll come away thinking about roughly the same thing I had in mind.

Image: Photography by BJWOK /

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