Thoughts On Writing Well

“All writing is ultimately a question of solving a problem.  It may be a problem of where to obtain facts or how to organize the material.  It may be a problem of approach or attitude, tone or style.  Whatever it is, it has to be confronted and solved.  Sometimes you will despair of finding the right solution–or any solution.”

On Writing Well, p. 49

It should be pointed out that I’m sitting comfortably, reclining in a cushioned chair, thoughtfully ruminating on what it means to write rather well and, on the whole, I’m somewhat convinced that this outstanding blog post will pretty much be an undeniable success in exerting massive, world-shattering influence on the blogging world, but I’m really not sure about that.

The previous sentence is purposefully convoluted.  I wrote it because I care about writing, I teach writing, and I need to step back and remind myself about what good writers do.  How they solve the problems and challenges inherent in certain writing forms and styles.  How certain sentences are crafted.  How, according to some writers, adverbs and adjectives often muddle sentences:

I’m still sitting in a cushioned armchair, considering what it means to write well.  I have no pretense that this post will be particularly influential.

That’s better.  But I’m still thinking about the above quote, and how its ideas play out every time I write a blog post.  Should I link to other sources?  Should I shift my tone?  Should I choose a different quote as an epigraph?  Framing writing as problem solving is something I’m going to emphasize with my students in room 137.  

I will tell my students that that is OK to start a sentence with but.  After all, who really believes that however or yet are more effective word choices if you want to make a clear, precise contradictory statement?   I will show them this post, and tell them just how many hundreds of little decisions I’ve made in writing this entry.  I will encourage them to read and imitate writers they admire.

I’ll tell them that since I care about writing, I’ve decided to reread books on writing.  Thanks to Annie Murphy Paul’s praise of William Zinsser’s classic nonfiction writing guide On Writing Well, I’ve begun to reread the book.  I’m playing with the ideas as I continue to sit in the armchair, reminding myself that writing one blog post a week may make me feel like I’m honing my skills, but that clockwork does little to keep me more aware of how I’m writing and blogging. 

I know I’ve got a lot to learn when it comes to the written word, and many bloggers aren’t as concerned as I am with the craft–that’s fine by me.   But isn’t blogging a wonderful way to deliberately write, gather feedback, and share ideas with others interested in Writing Well?

What are some of your favorite texts on writing?  What do you think are the best lessons to teach young writers about blogging and writing? What’s your writing process for your blog posts?   


  1. My favourite book about writing is the slim but all important Strunk and White. When I receive a review for publication the first thing I do is strike out words ending in LY. If it turns out that one of them was necessary it gets put back otherwise they are out.

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