By A. G. Moore
You’re probably reading this essay because you want to improve your writing skills. That is the first and most important step on the path to good writing. The next step is easier. Pick up your instrument of choice–a pen, a pencil, a keyboard–and start writing.
Writing is like speaking. At first, when you begin–whether it’s a foreign language or your native language in the early years of life–speaking requires great effort. You struggle for the correct phrase. You stumble and make mistakes. After a while, as you practice and use language on a daily basis, your speech becomes smoother. You think less about how you say something and more about what you want to say. This is fluency.
Fluency is the goal in writing and is achieved in exactly the same way that it is accomplished in speech: practice. The more frequently you write, the more fluent your writing becomes. Once fluency is achieved, certain techniques and rules will help to make the writing more effective. These rules and techniques are easily mastered, but they won’t work unless you have something to use them on. So write–anything. Write what you’d like to say. Worry about correctness later.
Organization, grammar, style–these will come with time. Think of the pieces you write as blocks of clay. Each time you start out there is no shape, no form to the clay. As you begin to mold you have an idea of what you would like to see at the end of your sculpting. After the first cuts, the lump of clay won’t look like anything. After a while, as you shape a crude form, you can go back with your chisel and refine your art.
That’s exactly what happens in most writing.
Of course, there are exceptions. There are brilliant masters who have a touch of genius. Words pour from them as water does from a fountain. Most of us don’t have that gift. Most of us will settle for communicating effectively. If that is your goal, then form an idea, sit in front of a blank page and begin to express your idea. Once you have words on a page, once you have the rough clay crudely formed, you can use basic techniques to fashion a finished product. Logic, grammar, style–these are just carefully targeted cuts in the clay. They can be added and adjusted as the piece takes shape.
The more often you engage in the process of writing, the more fluent you will become. If you doubt this, think about the way you learned to speak. You’ll realize that the separation between the spoken word and the written word is merely a matter of perspective and familiarity. Both of these are in your control and really present no barrier at all.