April 13, 2011
How can I, as a writer, balance writing for myself and for my readers without sacrificing the other? That is the question I was struck with while reading Zinsser’s book On Writing Well, and one he presents.In his book, writers are encouraged to adopt a style that is fitting of themselves, yet capture and maintain the attention of readers. What if my style does not capture readers? What if what captures the attention of readers does not do the same for me as I write? Am I stuck wrestling between this paradox of uncertainty or is there a way out? Note to self: NOT writing is not an option.
Luckily, Zinsser, who is a writer, editor and teacher, offers solutions in chapters four, five, and nine that I found very helpful and will serve as a guide in future writing assignments. He advises that I eliminate any unnecessary words and keep my language simple. This won’t take away from my style, but enhance it by removing the “excess or murkiness [that] has crept into [my] style” and obstructs the message I am trying to convey to readers. Style is something that every writer possesses and makes him/her equally unique. So, the first step in capturing my audience while writing for myself is to relax and be myself. Zinsser states: The reader will notice if you are putting on airs. Readers want the person who is talking to them to sound genuine. Therefore a fundamental rule is: be yourself (19). Before writing, I should relieve myself of any pressure to write in a way that feels unnatural, produce an awesome paper that will rock everyone’s socks off, or meet a certain page length. Just sit down, believe in my own identity and opinions, and write!
Aside from being myself, the second step is to determine the audience of my paper. A writers’ audience will first and foremost be him/herself. Zinsser continues to reiterate this point of authenticity by saying, “Don’t try to visualize the great mass...