“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.”
“Composition is a discipline; it forces us to think. If you want to ‘get in touch with your feelings,’ fine; we all do. But if you want to communicate with another thinking human being, get in touch with your thoughts. Put them in order; give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce. The secret way to do this is to write it down and then cut out the confusing parts.”
I don’t know how much of a stylist our boy William is considered and I don’t think he ever pursued the fiction route, but he has a point here worth thinking about. Whatever kind of writing we’re doing, there’s discipline and rigor required. We may want to convey deep emotion and move our readers, but our artful use of words is the tool we have at our command — and we have to give our words a purpose when we send them marching out across the page.
So often, I’ve seen passages that seem to be just thrown together almost randomly; stream-of-consciousness ramblings that are tricked out a bit to appear as if they were the product of thought, not just a gush of unexamined feeling. Have you seen this kind of writing?
To express emotion and to evoke feelings in our readers — surely this is one of our major goals as creative writers. Yes, we may also want to “to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce” — as Safire puts it, but we also want to touch our readers, to move them. But to reach any or all of these goals in our writing, we have to get our thoughts in order: we have to “discover what we believe,” and then induce our readers to believe along with us.