Pondering A Problem

There are two things that I think make for great writing. The first is honesty and the second is simplicity.

Both of these things are far harder to pull off then at first it might appear. We are not by nature honest creatures. When we talk with others we put on masks and we filter what we say. Even when we are dealing only with ourselves there is often things we don’t want to see in cold hard print even when we know they are true.

As far as simplicity, we all know that we should make things as simple as possible and still have them serve their intended function. And this is hard because it requires us to perfectly understand what the intended function is. This is hard even when the thing is our own creation.

But I find that it is really difficult to combine simplicity with honesty. When ever I strive for the one, I find myself sacrificing the latter.

I wonder why this is.

One would think that striving for honesty would also help make things as simple as possible. Surly the truth is the epitome of what is as simple as possible.

Perhaps it is just because I have a very imperfect understanding of what is necessary for true honesty. Thus, I try too many things to achieve the effect of being honest.

Or maybe it is just a reflection of my poor abilities as a wordsmith. I find that when I want to be honest I most often have to use metaphors and similes. Perhaps if I was better with language I would find a way to say what I mean in a more straightforward manner.

But perhaps the problem is simple as the fact that I am a coward and when part of me seeks to speak the truth the other part of me wants to cover it up.

One Response to “Pondering A Problem”

  1. Rundy says:

    I have wanted to say something to every one of your posts on writing, but was too busy during the week.

    Here you implicitly acknowledge pride (the other side of fear) in not wanting to reveal things. That is certainly a big problem for some people. But you have not addressed what is a bigger cause of your lack of simplicity which is your pride over how you writing will appear.

    To write with simplicity implies leaving some things unsaid. The able writer trusts his reader to be able to make connections, and so leaves much unsaid. In this respect there is a similarity between good writing and poetry.

    The “problem” is that some readers do not live up to the expectations of the writer and so misunderstand the material, or are not able to fill in the blanks, and so accuse the writer of intellectual failure. Since the charge of a failure to think rigorously is your greatest scourge against others it is a matter of pride for you that you defend yourself as rigorously as possible from the same accusation.

    Thus in defending yourself from perceived accusations you produce turgid prose. Indeed you have succeeded in defending yourself from the fool–now the fool can’t even make his way through the paper. You are impenetrable, and therefore he cannot accuse you of having not thought–only of having been unable to write. As an accusation against your person, you prefer the latter.

    The truly able can still extract your thoughts from your bad writing. They think, “Man, he has terrible writing” but they can still appreciate your thoughts.

    For your writing to improve to simplicity, you must embrace the scorn of fools who will say, “That man didn’t think!” because only then will the intelligent be able to say, “That man thought, and look at how he wrote it with such excellent simplicity!”

    But your inability to endured the accusation of having not thought (and from fools no less) is your greatest weakness.

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