This post by Magda made me think a lot about my writing process, and writing in general.
Good writing comes mostly from discipline and patience that allow for long hours of editing and pondering over words. This was never news to me, but it’s something that hits close to home these days, as I produce more botched sentences and unfinished drafts on my computer than I’d like to admit. I have never been good at being patient — which is why I’ve responded so well to instant outlets like this blog and other social media formats, rather than longer formats.
Unclear sentences have been a consistent presence in my writing, often in my final drafts too. In undergrad I had the fortune of having talented writer friends who were willing to edit my work, and it made me terribly lazy. Every once in awhile I would have a stroke of….something that sounded a bit poetic, and for that I was rewarded, far too generously. But I was incapable of fixing my sentences, because I was just too impatient to fix my errors. It culminated to a point where a professor wrote in the comments of my final essay once: “underneath this piece of writing there is a good essay…” I can’t tell you how incredibly humiliating it felt to read that. But he was right. I lacked the discipline to produce long papers I was truly proud of. I’d like to blame the internet, but the internet needs its enabler too.
Funny, it wasn’t until I quit trying to be any kind of “writer” (a.k.a. finished with my liberal arts education, stopped trying to be a “journalist”) that I learned how to fix my structure, and learn the value of clear writing. I suppose it had to do with teaching myself a lot of grammar (for my job) and being restricted in format and style (hi, law school), where I had to learn to edit my work and be a bit more aware of my writing process, rather than frantically coming up with a thesis and some nice-sounding quotes.
This fall, I have to delve into longer paper-writing again. While I know I’m capable of doing it (we are capable of many things, theoretically) part of me still bristles at the idea. I have to be responsible for sculpting an unwieldly block of writing into something worthwhile, something that will last more than a quick, distracted glance on someone’s social media feed. Wish me luck.