I’ve always enjoyed writing. Not the actual physical act with a pen and paper; anyone who has seen my handwriting will tell you it’s amongst the worse on the planet – as illegible as any stereotyped doctor – but the art of crafting words and placing them in a certain order to deliver a message.
The satisfaction of drafting something that reads well and has an impact with your reader is hard to beat. For me, it’s the most powerful thing you can do that doesn’t involve inter-continental ballistic missiles.
I guess anyone who writes a blog – least of all one who aims to write every day for a year on it – by the way, today is day 5 of 365 – is stating the obvious when they say they enjoy writing. But there is something else. For me, the challenge of writing different types of material is part of the magic that quickens the pulse every day. It’s the best way of becoming a better writer. It’s the best way of keeping fit to write.
Take today. I have written several things for different audiences; different styles of writing with very different purposes. This shifting of gears between these different types of writing and balancing the needs of the different genres is worth unpacking.
Take one example. I am approaching the end of the first year of my PhD; itself focusing in part on writing. Specifically, I am looking at how the third sector seeks to influence UK government health policy. With a large dollop of document review and discourse analysis, I will seek to see how the words they use (often written down) are chosen to help them frame arguments and influence debates. As part of the end of my first year I need to pass an end of year assessment. This review requires some written submissions, an oral presentation and an interview with two independent academics, who are not part of my supervisory team at the university. I have this morning completed part of my written submission – 30 pages of text; just over 6000 words.
This type of writing – for an academic audience – is very different to anything else I have written today or indeed any day. The culmination of my project will be the publication of a 80,000 + words thesis – again something far exceeding my usual writing fayre. As an side – and I feel a fuller post on this coming along soon – writing for academic purposes does require often more detail and analysis than other forms of writing but I am sticking to my view that it still should be read-able and enjoyable – even if only me, Mrs J and my supervisors will ever actually read the thesis!
The ability to move from this sort of writing to the other things I have written today is challenging and enjoyable. Today’s smorgasbord of writing has included several emails (mostly formal and business-focused), two draft letters (for a client), a press statement, an opinion piece possibly for a national newspaper, this blog post and some drafting of a new business proposal. They range in length, audience and purpose.
I don’t go to the gym – I prefer my exercise outdoors involving golf clubs or pavement pounding – but I know that many who do try to develop a training programme that uses different muscle groups and various types of exercise. This balanced approach – a mix of weights, cardiovascular work and the like – aides a more rounded fitness and health. I believe in the same philosophy for writers; a variety of writing helps to keep you sharp; it helps you to focus on the key ingredients of thinking about your audience, your message, your reason for writing, what you want to happen after the reader has set eyes on your words and the methods you are using, especially when you are having to switch between different texts. It helps you to remember that the best writing is often that which is most enjoyable to produce.
Of today’s writing, I have enjoyed all of it, even those pieces that took longer or involved the most head-scratching. That’s my workout for today done. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. I am ready, and just like many people in the gym, I have my music to accompany the workout. I very, very rarely write without a backing track; another way I ensure the process is enjoyable and artful.