The Maytag Repairman Isn’t Alone

Working as a writer is greatly different from working any other kind of job.  For one, you must be ready for a life filled with solitude.  Writing is one of those things you do best alone.  You must also possess incredible discipline.  Writing requires an almost fanatical eye for detail and a keen sense of logic.  Without these characteristics, more than likely you are not capable of working as a writer.

Many individuals are great storytellers, but there is much more to actually calling yourself a writer.  Being able to tell a very good story over dinner or at the Sunday afternoon picnic is one thing, but putting those thoughts down on paper in a logical and disciplined manner so others may read what you wrote – and get the message – well, that might just be a horse of a different color.

Many have considered the job of writing.  Indeed, a good number of would-be writers actually sat down at a computer or a typewriter (the purists use pen and paper) and began writing.  In fact, a few of those individuals can be very prolific with setting words to paper.  Some reached the end of their 358-page treatise and typed “The End” thinking they were finished.  All real writers will tell you this is the point at which the real work begins.

The first thing a writer should do after finishing any piece of writing is to put it away in a drawer and leave it for at least a week.  Sometimes you can do this; other times deadlines prevent it.  If you have the luxury of time, stow the piece for a week or two before looking at it again.  This allows you come back to look at it with a fresh eye.  When you do pick up the piece again, now the real work begins.  This is called editing and re-writing.

The writer must break each paragraph down into individual sentences and then each sentence into individual phrases.  To separate the ideas, the writer must take pencil to paper deciding where to place each punctuation mark.  Place a mark incorrectly and the phrase or the sentence takes on a totally different meaning.  It will not convey the message originally intended by the author.  Additionally, throw a few homophonic mistakes into the manuscript and see what bearing that has on the message.  What the author must keep in mind is the success of his or her writing is directly measurable by how well the reader receives the message.

Writing is very hard.  In fact, sometimes I have to chuckle to myself when I hear someone say, “Writing is easy.”  Keep in mind I have done some hard things in my lifetime.  Writing may not be as difficult as landing an attack jet on a pitching carrier deck at night, but I assure you, it can give you the exact same kind of a headache – especially after three straight hours of editing.

As I wrote earlier in the article, almost anyone can effectively put words to paper.  But to get the message across, a writer has to carefully edit.  This process takes a lot of time and effort and energy to produce a viable final product.  Many who would be writers are incapable of this very important task.  Without the ability or desire to edit, those who think they are writers truly are not.

Merely getting something onto paper does not qualify one as a writer.  Writers take great pride in getting their message just right.  This includes deleting words, adding words, changing phrases, making certain capitalization is just right, describing scenes appropriately, and making certain the punctuation is perfect.

Well, it is late at night and the wife and cat are asleep.  Did I mention writing could be a lonely job?

-30- 

© 2010 J. Clark

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3 Responses to The Maytag Repairman Isn’t Alone

  1. flyinggma says:

    It may be lonely but it sure beats transcribing oral history tapes for an entire summer using headphones and an electric typewriter in a basement office with no windows.

    • Joe Clark says:

      You’re right, that does sount pretty lonely also. By the way, I thought your post, It’s never too late to be what you might have been! was really very good.

  2. flyinggma says:

    Thanks, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog posts about writing.

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