Art of Writing

Art of Writing

 Who cares about writing anymore? With the advancement of communications technology, especially the rapid growth of computer-mediated communication and the use of mobile phones, more and more people, particularly the educated young generation, embrace technology in a mad frenzy. Short-messaging systems (SMS), email and word processors flood the lives of young people. There is more typing and clicking happening than writing with a writing instrument. Increasingly, we are moving into an age where the mouse, keyboard and keypads are dearer to us than the nimble pen. This click-and-type wave is, in this writer's opinion, causing the slow and painful death of the art of writing. Undoubtedly, we still "write", but we now "write" with the mouse and keypad. From the beautiful, smooth movement of the once mighty pen, we have moved to embrace the swiftness of the fingers in tapping keys, and in this respect, the thumb is king.

How many of us still write letters, invitations, birthday cards and congratulatory notes? How many pick up the humble pen and paper to write? Not only in business, but also in our personal lives the most important letters or notes, which we once wrote to our loved one with pen and paper, have been taken over by the click-and-type wave. From penmanship we have moved to "keypadship".

We have moved from the joy of writing on a wonderful piece of paper, folding it, putting it in an envelope, applying the stamp and sending the letter, to typing and sending to a virtual email address. Lost are the joys of holding the card or letter, the psychological joy and contentment of touching, turning the pages and holding them. We receive more e-cards than traditional cards, which can be placed and displayed on our tables, workstations, cupboards etc. Love letters or online confessions may slowly be taking over on-paper love dedications.

Culture changes with the passage of time. In the present technology-centered world, time plays a primary role. Increasingly, people are moving towards using email and SMS for communication as they are fast, accessible and easy to use. We see them, and use them, more everyday. Just look around and one will see people happily thumbing their way on the mobile phone or logging in to the Internet and checking their email accounts at their workstations the first thing in the morning (perhaps you do too).

Communication Technology's Growth and Implications for Writing

The increasing popularity of keypadship has several implications. Some of those that have emerged are:

  1. The breakdown of traditional grammar, terms and styles and the creation of new ones. Simplifications and shortcuts are prevalent in emails and SMS. These shortcuts are often very personalized in nature and may sometimes be comprehendible only between the interacting parties.
  2. Deterioration of handwriting — cursive writing may be a thing of the past; bad handwriting is increasingly common as less writing occurs with writing instruments.
  3. Ordinary mail nowadays consists mainly of bills and other official documents.

From Graphology to Type-ology?
Many people believe that handwriting can be analyzed (called graphology) to see the inner soul of the writer, what he is thinking, his behavior, his character, etc. But with click-and-type and keypads, there is a severe loss of the human touch. Is there a loss of human identity? The way a sentence, a paragraph or a letter is typed can show the inner thoughts and character of people. Analysis is still possible but without the complexities and diversity of strokes, curves, loops etc. In their place are the new linguistic structures and forms associated with click-and-type and keypad culture. Creative abbreviations and simplifications abound, and grammar is freely ignored (sometimes abused). Research into how, why, when and what people abbreviate or simplify may prove to be quite revealing. This "type-ology" may not be graphology per se, but still it is useful.

Conclusion Back to the question: Is writing dying a slow and painful death?

M.O. Thirunarayanan, in an article on the increasing clicking behavior of people, comments that we are now in the generation of "I click, therefore I am." Although the article discusses Web page clicking, I believe this is also true for those who are greatly dependent on the computer for writing and mobile phones for SMS. I propose that we move from this over-dependence, going back to "I write, therefore I am."

What does the future hold for writing? Johan Jaafar, a columnist for The New Straits Times, aptly observed:

The good news is, we don't have to encourage people to "write" again. This is wonderful. We have been complaining that people have stopped expressing themselves. Many out there are doing exactly that. And more.

Writing Tips

  1. Cut the boring parts
    I try to leave out the parts that people skip. ~Elmore Leonard
    Unless you're writing for personal reasons alone, you need to consider the attention of your readers. There's no point is publishing content that isn't useful, interesting, or both.

  2. Eliminate unnecessary words
    Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain
    I used to feel that using words like "really", "actually", or "extremely" made writing more forceful. It doesn't. They only get in the way. Cut them and never look back.

  3. Write with passion
    Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth
    It's not hard to realize that unless you're excited about your writing no one else will be.

  4. Paint a picture
    Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. ~Anton Chekhov
    Simply stating something is fine, but when you need to capture attention, using similes, metaphors, and vivid imagery to paint a picture creates a powerful emotional response.

  5. Keep it simple
    Vigorous writing is concise. ~William Strunk Jr.
    Maybe it was all those late nights, struggling to fill out mandatory 10 page papers, but many people seem to think that worthwhile writing is long and drawn out. It's more difficult (and effective) to express yourself in the simplest possible manner.

  6. Do it for love
    Write without pay until somebody offers to pay. ~Mark Twain
    When you're just starting out it's hard to decide where to begin. So don't. Just start writing. A blog is a good place to start. The most valuable benefit is the feedback.

  7. Learn to thrive on criticism
    You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. ~Ray Bradbury
    Writing means putting yourself at the mercy of anonymous hecklers and shameless sycophants. Learn to make the most of the insults and distrust the praise.

  8. Write all the time
    Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you're doomed. ~Ray Bradbury The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn't behave that way you would never do anything. ~John Irving

  9. Write what you know … or what you want to know
    If any man wish to write in a clear style, let him be first clear in his thoughts; and if any would write in a noble style, let him first possess a noble soul. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Learn as much by writing as by reading. ~Lord Acton
    Successful writing is all about trust and authority. It makes sense to write about your area of expertise. If you don't have an expertise, reading and writing is the best way to develop one and put it on display.

  10. Be unique and unpredictable
    I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. ~G.K. Chesterton Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. ~Oscar Wilde Zest. Gusto. How rarely one hears these words used. How rarely do we see people living, or for that matter, creating by them. Yet if I were asked to name the most important items in a writer's make-up, the things that shape his material and rush him along the road to where he wants to go, I could only warn him to look to his zest, see to his gusto. ~Ray Bradbury
    Following what works will only get you so far. Experiment with new styles, even if it means taking criticism. Without moving forward, you'll be left behind.

 

 

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