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Friday, September 10, 2010

Writing Is Hard Work. But, do you want to work that hard?

Because the best writing appears on the page or the screen as if it were written effortlessly, there is this presumption by people who don't write regularly and don't like to write that writing is easy for some people and hard for others.

If writing is hard for you--if you feel like a failure before you begin to write any document--you might draw the conclusion that you aren't a capable writer or can't write what you need to write in the workplace in order to succeed.  That isn't true.

It just means that writing is hard work and you have been duped by writing that you admire into thinking that you aren't a good writer.

That word good haunts us all.  Close on its heels is the word bad, for it is an easy assumption to make that if you aren't a writer for whom words come easily, you aren't a good writer; and if you aren't a good writer, then it follows, one leaps to think, that you are a bad writer.

While the deduction is easy to make, it isn't true.  For the judgments of good and bad actually don't apply to writing in the workplace where the assessments of prose that we assign to artistic endeavors are not relevant.

Here's what I mean:  The great works of literature achieve greatness because many people liked reading them and educated people explained why their meaning has a broad range of significance. If the language is beautiful and the images sterling and true, then we assign the word "good" to them; and over time, we get mixed up about writing in general.  We expect all writing to achieve goodness by being beautiful and true but that's not true (and beauty is irrelevant) about workplace writing.

Writing for the purposes that we fulfill in the workplace does not fit within the realm of that kind of truth and the exploration of beauty.  Because workplace writing does not intend to fulfill those purposes, it should not be judged by that criteria.  Instead, workplace writing is simpler but still noble:  it attempts to solve problems, create records and communicate movements of progress.  In short, it tells the truths of the workplace.

For those purposes, the craft of writing clearly and briefly is mostly what is required; and unlike artistic endeavors, the craft of workplace writing can be learned by anyone smart enough to get a good job and have hopes of advancing.

That's really the reader this blog is written for--the ambitious professional (ambitious is a good word), who may be uncertain about his or her ability to communicate on the page or on the screen and recognizes that in a changing work environment where communication matters more than ever (Social media, web-based writing--you name it) that being able to write a clear sentence or form a shapely paragraph could make the difference between not only keeping your job but advancing in it.

Many people postpone recognizing that principle for the simple reason that they are afraid that they can't communicate clearly in the workplace. That isn't true.  That fear most likely got born in various English classes along the way where analysis of literature was expected, and papers written about literature supposedly told some kind of truth about you as a reader and a writer. That skill called literary criticism doesn't have much to do at all with whether you are able to write well and clearly in the workplace whatever the nature of that workplace is.  Living on an irrelevant reputation  your earned during your school days can cripple you in the workplace where you can decide for yourself whether you think producing strong writing is a good choice to make and that you can make the choice for yourself without waiting for someone to assign some kind of letter grade to your work that proves you have the ability to produce what many employers ask for:  strong communication skills.

If you can read this blog entry, you can write the kind of workplace documents that you need to write.  They require hard work.  The simpler the prose and presentation of the idea the more likely that the writer worked very, very hard  to achieve that effect. 

Don't let that effect throw you off the idea that you can't do that, too.  You can.  But your ability to succeed is not based on whether you understand how to use a comma (you can learn that) or how to use a semi-colon (you can learn that), it rests entirely upon your understanding that workplace writing is not about creating art. It's about telling business-based truths in a clear style to people in a hurry who need to digest reliable information quickly.

Writing is hard work.  Deciding whether you want to work that hard is the challenge you have to meet before you can most certainly fulfill the necessary ambition to become an effective communicator in whatever workplace you decide is the place where you want to succeed.


  1. Very true how "good" works seem to have been effortlessy written, and how that causes most people to assume it is easy to write well. I also like the point you made about workplace writing. It's not supposed to be pretty, just to-the-point and correctly written.

  2. I definitely agree with the idea that there is a major difference between creative writing/ literary criticism and professional writing that is meant for the business world. As an aspiring author, I find that creative writing comes more natural to me- at least, I find it to be the most exciting way to write. In contrast, I sometimes find “professional” writing to pose more of a challenge. It is less personal, quick, and strictly information based. It can be hard to turn off the habit of writing with wordy flare and minimizing my word choices to get the essential message across. I agree that we are all capable of writing professionally if we are willing to work at it. It does require practice as well as the ability to switch easily between the “creative” mode and the “professional” mode.

  3. I stongly agree with the idea that there are major differences between professional writing and literary criticism. Just because a person finds difficulty in writing a literary criticism doesn't mean they they will face the same problems in workplace writings. The two do not reflect one another. Writing takes practice, but anyone who puts in the effort can achieve their goal as a successful writer.

  4. There definitely is a difference when it comes to professional writing and the literary arts so highly promoted today. I find it easier to write a simple but professional letter that states the point clearly and efficiently than have to use all kinds of creativity it takes to write a piece with a 'good' criticism. The only reason writing should involve creative content is if your profession has author/book writer related necessities.

  5. I agree with the the fact that well written pieces seems to have been a no brainer. I tis personally hard for me to want to sit down and right a paper because I know that it takes hard work for it to come out well written.

  6. I agree that work place writing is meant to be more matter of fact writing. I am still at a loss as what we should be writing about in our journal entries.

  7. Journal entries are a discipline. You can write about anything that is associated with school or work. I have occasionally added journal prompts to the day's lesson plan.

  8. I must admit I have belonged to the bad writer group for while now. I am constantly working on my communication skills as a whole. Hopefully, by the end of this semester I will have learned the necessary skills needed to make me successful in all my endeavors.