Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Discipline of Writing

Most of the first writing I did was persuasive writing – convincing a professor, I had learned the course material, or the US government to award a contact to my boss.   Or, I wrote up some of results of the contracts our company won.  The professors were not always convinced; but I did land a few contracts. 

Back then, I survived essays and research and proposal writing because I could outline and diagram sentences.   I also liked reading dictionaries and the Thesaurus. So, I was hired as an editor and technical writer because I could spot more errors in grammar than others and I knew how to arrange and rearrange words, though with unexceptional ability.  I was young – and it was during the 1960’s-- I wasn’t self-conscious about the magnitude of my lack of knowledge.

But I knew I was not yet a writer. 

A writer is one who uses the same twenty-six letters of the alphabet I use, but has the ability to arrange them into words that tell the truth about the human heart. 

Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne

Copy editors and proposal writers don’t write that way.  Although we should read that way:

A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.  ~William Stunk, Jr., The Elements of Style, 1918

Digesting this little handbook with additions by E.B. White and his stepson Roger Angell is hearty fare for all kinds of writers, new ones, or those in need of refreshment  – no matter some folks’ disapproval of the guide. (See the naysayers.) Mr. White described writing this way: Writing is both mask and unveiling.  He also advised,  “The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.” 

A concise explanation of why good writing is so fun to read and oh so harder to do.  

Like a mirror, writing reflects a writer’s hopes, failures and deficiencies.  Usually, however, we only glance in a mirror – turning away when we are finished or frustrated. Writing means looking at the reflection – warts and all of the writer’s abilities and limitations. 
The hardest, but most startling thing about writing electronically is seeing the words appear on the screen that only moments before were swirling around in my mind and heart, filtered through my old English major sensibilities appear in black and white – underlined in red or green, depending on the error they convey, spelling or grammar. Keyboarding doesn’t supplant journaling –or scribbling – for so, too, putting pen to paper is a great delight.

Writing is scary – but it is a dread I love to hate.

Writing is like looking in a mirror: some days I see clearly -- but on others, not so much.  Writing about what I am learning in Scripture is a great vision corrector and solace.   Reading and writing help me make sense of life that is precious and precarious -- delightful and quite dangerous.

"Reading makes a full [woman]; conference a ready man; and writing an exact [woman]."(Sir Francis Bacon, 1561-1626 Of Studies.)

Two years ago, I finally posted on the blog I secured in the year 2005. Other friends who had blogs praised this vehicle; I sat cowed for four years. It took me longer to learn how to use this dimension of the Internet than e-mail or discussion board – or even keyboarding. But coping with the move was a great motivator. And I posted Uprooted, as we moved. 

I took time, read and tried to understand the directions (which are more straightforward when I began to understand the words than the MLA Handbook) and put together one page. Next, I started going to "next blog" wondering how they did all their artwork. A few weeks ago while fiddling with all the templates and commands, I got to where I am now. 

 My daughter helped me transfer photos from my camera to the computer -- and I learned how to put them on the blog. The delight has been seeing all my photos whenever I work on the computer – and now being able to share them with others – the happiest moments of my life, illustrated – illustrated faster than I can type the words.

Almost 200 entries later, I am not yet an exact woman—but I surely know what I don’t know!

Included is a popular YouTube that captures how challenging this process has been.

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