To write well, think well
How to have clarity in your writing
I’ve found with writing essays, there’s a formula to writing a good and clear essay, that is applicable to several other forms of writing.
The first step begins with research. But this research is not intense. It is purely basic, background research. It is just to gain an understanding of the topic.
From there, you pause researching and think for a moment. You come up with an idea of what your argument is. What you’re trying to articulate and prove to the audience. Once you get a general sense of that, you go deep.
You immediately gather all the research you can find looking for ‘gold nuggets’ of evidence. This in itself is a sizeable task and one I will not go in depth into, but the point is to find really really good evidence that helps your argument, something rather simple. You synthesize and organize your research in a specific way and from there, you move on to the next step: thinking, again.
With enough proper evidence to support your argument, it’s important to come back to the drawing board again. Why? To articulate the story you’re trying to tell. To truly start getting a grasp of the point you’re trying to make. Earlier, you just had a general sense of your argument. But now, you start developing an actual thesis statement. You start forming paragraphs, outlining your paper. You sort the evidence and you create a well thought out outline to start writing off of.
Now, comes the phase most people know: the actual writing itself. With an outline to work off, you attempt to avoid writing a mess of a paper and create complete points and sentences out of the outline you’ve made. Unfortunately, writing isn’t as easy as it seems. Most of the time, even though we hope with all of this beforehand research and thinking our first draft wouldn’t be half-bad, we realize it’s utter garbage. It lacks nuance, the ideas are not well thought out, and its ironically a big mess.
So, typically we proceed to think again. This time, digging into the weeds, creating depth and precision in the essay. We go over the previous draft, looking at the biggest mistakes we made as most of the smaller mistakes will be fixed if the bigger ones are dealt with. From there, it goes onto to the 2nd draft, a version not as bad. It’s decent. There’s hope that it might not be complete garbage. Then comes the 3rd, 4th, etc. I’ll stop here.
The question asked after all of this, is what is the point? What is the point in explaining this entire process? Quite a few are already aware of this process, and those who aren’t, well unless you’re writing a paper, this doesn’t seem to be very helpful.
The point of explaining all of this, was to highlight the frequency of thinking. With just the 2nd draft, a person is required to think quite heavily 3 times. That’s more times than researching or even writing itself. The question then becomes, why is that the case?
The answer is, to write well, you must think well. Let’s just take the first step in the process. Let’s assume that you had not thought about your argument before you had started researching. You would’ve then researched with no thought whatsoever as any evidence that seemed more intriguing than a rat’s ear would’ve seemed relevant. In the end, you’d be left with lots of unrelated ideas and no clear evidence to support your argument. Similar horrible outcomes occur if one doesn’t think before creating an outline or before writing the 2nd draft.
In short, thinking is an extremely important part in the writing process. Thinking brings clarity. Clarity means better communication, and in this case, better writing. So, to write well, one must think well. Their ideas must be well thought out, full of depth and nuance, and truthful.
Great, sounds amazing. But how do I know if my ideas are all that?
The first step in that is answering that is making sure you’re confident in your ideas. If you don’t think your ideas are all that, then you’re probably right. You’ll need to do some more thinking.
But let’s just say, you’re confident in your ideas. You think your ideas are deep and truthful, but you want to test it out. To do that, it’s a bit of a paradox. Why? Well because to see if your thinking is good and thus your writing, you must try and write it. Writing is a form of communication. So, write out your ideas. Try explaining them. To you or someone else (external feedback is a great way to test out your ideas). If you’re talking to someone else, you can just get their feedback. If you’re writing to yourself, then before you try and see if your ideas are well thought out, take a break.
Take a break, and then come back with a fresh perspective and read the explanation of your ideas. Read it, and if it sounds good, trust your gut and go with it. But if you feel even slightly uneasy, there’s something wrong and you need to investigate it. Always trust your instinct.
Hopefully, you’ll get your ideas to a point where they are well thought out. Where they have nuance and depth. Clarity. Where your ideas are all that. Not to say perfection needs to be reached before writing starts, but especially in the case of an essay, you need to have some ideas before you start. Even for fiction and fantasy there needs to be something, though not as much.
Then, when your ideas have reached a good point, start the famed and grueling writing process. Just start, but this time with some more hope, because now you know what you’re talking about. You know your stuff. You just need to communicate it well.