I believe when it comes to good writing, there is little more important than clarity. It’s still a learning process for me everyday. But working in a newsroom with some of the most experienced, sharp minds in journalism has taught me some very valuable lessons. Most of which can be distilled into one simple idea.
Clear writing reveals clarity of thought.
Fundamentally, writing is about conveying ideas. So what good is an embellished, convoluted essay if we lose the point or our audience to vanity?
As a child in school, you’d get higher marks for more extravagant vocabulary. But that’s when you’re six, and you’re trying to learn what big words mean. But as we get older, hyperbolic descriptions reek of trying too hard. Plainly put, it’s pretentious. The best writers in the world are kings of clarity. If you can explain the most complicated idea to a six-year-old, you’ve nailed it. If you wouldn’t use it in daily speech, it’s superfluous. Lack of deep thought can’t be camouflaged with frivolous words copied off of a thesaurus.
The biggest challenge a writer might encounter is finding a compelling voice. And my personal heroes are George Orwell, Oscar Wilde, Kurt Vonnegut, Charles Bukowski, Milan Kundera, and even the often provocative Chuck Palahniuk. I thoroughly enjoy black humour, biting wit, and an unflinching voice. Great writing often comes from a place of extraordinary empathy, and a unique vision from having experienced both the most beautiful and grotesque things in the world.
It takes a lot of work to be a good writer. But the first step may just be to shoot for simplicity.
Who are your literary heroes? I’d love to hear what you’ve learnt.