How do authors learn to write? Author William Zinsser claims that the main principles of writing can be learned. But it is not easy.
As Zinsser talks about in part 1 of On Writing Well, everyone has their own style of writing, there isn’t just one “right” way to write. When I’m assigned a paper for school, I know I will spend the entire day in silence in the library. For others, they go to a loud, busy coffee shop. There are all different kinds of methods and any method that helps you say what you want to say is the right method for you. Some people write during the day and others right at night, some in silence, some listening to the radio. I think this is also true for the readers too. Everyone has specific authors they enjoy even if they might not love the topic that is being written about.
The Real You
Zinsser states “What holds me is the enthusiasm of the writer for his field.” (16) The product that any writer sells isn’t selling because of the topic, but because of the writer. I definitely find this true in my life. If I find an author that I enjoy reading, I will follow the author instead of the specific topic. When you find a book that you really enjoy, you forget that you are even reading. I find myself flipping the page unconsciously and staying up late just because I can’t put the book down.
On Writing Well stresses the importance of believing in your work and your opinions. With that being said, your work isn’t going to flow perfectly onto the paper. So instead of worrying, just write! Zinsser claims that you will be surprised with what you might end up with. When you get stuck, ask yourself: What am I trying to say? Sometimes if you revert your attention back to the topic, your thoughts will come right back to you.
Down to the Core
“Fighting clutter is like fighting weeds—the writer is always slightly behind. ” (24) I think one of the hardest things is taking a sentence and breaking it down to the core. Zinsser states that we need to get rid of all this clutter that surrounds our sentences and get right to the simple point.
The Secret: Simplicity
So what’s the secret to writing? Zinsser claims that “the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.” (18) The simpler & clearer you are, the easier it is to understand. With all of the distractions we have today, people tend to have shorter attention spans. It is the writers job to make it easy to understand and I think we all know that this is not an easy task. Zinsser believes that we need to train our eyes to look for the clutter in our own work. Reexamine each and every sentence you put on your paper. With that being said, I think you get my point. The simpler, the better.
Stop trying to write for someone other then yourself. Every reader is a different person, theres no one mass audience. There is no way you can possibly reach everyone. I’m not saying be careless about your writing, but “You are who you are and he is who he is. Either you’ll get along or you won’t.” (41) Zinsser claims that being you is more important then style because no matter what your style is, your voice will be heard.