Date of this Version
Writing mostly is a solitary activity. Right now, I sit in front of a computer screen. On my desk are piles of paper; notes for what I want to say; unfinished projects waiting to be attended to; books on shelves nearby to be consulted. I need to be alone when I write. Whether writing on a computer, on a typewriter or by hand, most writers I know prefer a secluded place without distractions from telephones and other people who demand attention.
Writing requires a concentration that is absent in ordinary conversations. This affects how we communicate in writing. Writing flows differently from the way a conversation flows. It flows from word and from comments to comments on comments. Writing has a beginning, an end and headlines that introduce the whole and its parts. These are units of thought, not of interaction. Writing is composed of small building blocks. Composition is deliberate, more or less controlled, moving through a topic without loosing track of the overall purpose, the whole. We may go back to assure that our composition is coherent, eliminating redundancy, improving the wording and inserting thoughts that showed up later.
When we have to write under non-solitary conditions, for example, in a newsroom with pressing deadlines, interrupting telephone calls, other reporters conversing in the neighboring cubical, an editor calling us with new assignments, the product is different. It reads more like an assembly of observational reports, a collage of images, lacking an overall structure. Textbooks on writing rarely speak of the conditions of writing but celebrate the qualities of its preferred product: style, grace, grammar, logical structure and coherence.
Date Posted: 13 March 2008