Craft By Zen

2 min read

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Past Writer, Present Writer

With over half a year of writing these letters, I am taking the time to review the differences in my writing between the past and present. I haven’t noticed a difference in writing quality, to my dismay, but I’ve learned something much more valuable. I’ve learned the value of editing. Before, I thought editing was a cumbersome and not necessary. “Shouldn’t everyone understand my stream of consciousness?” It turns out, no, the reader cannot. When I went back to re-read my writing, I realized I couldn’t read it. I had to think of the context in which I wrote it in to determine what I was trying to say.

Programming helped build part of this muscle. For over a year, I’ve been reading and reviewing my code, and I’ve noticed holes everywhere. As I learn how to become a pragmatic developer, I notice the code I wrote in the past just isn’t up to my standards today. And the code I write today won’t be at the standards that I hope for tomorrow. With writing, I strive for the same things. I want it to be legible for the intended audience with hopes that they will understand my point of view.

It felt embarrassing having my audience read such verbose verbiage. For the past month, I’ve tried to cut back on using adverbs and other modifiers. I’ve scrutinized words such as “only”, “very”, and “just” and tried to cut them out. Now when I read through my writing, I immediately cut those things out as soon as I can.

I pass my essays through the Hemingway App to detect awkward sentences. For example, the app can detect passive voice and difficult to read sentences. In grade school, most of us learned to avoid these techniques. I didn’t comprehend these things until I started recognizing them as mistakes. When I had a friend edit my writing, I learned that it’s hard to recognize these things on your own. Speaking of editors, if you would like to help edit these in the future, reach out to me.

When I read writing from some of my favorite authors, I’m awed by their clarity and narration. I aim myself for that target, but I’m not quite there yet. I will need to deliberately practice more, but I recognize that I’m making progress. Also, I still loads to say, so I’m not going to quit writing anytime soon.