Writing skills need to be built from the basics

I am always intrigued by the fact that most of the ‘how to write’ and ‘craft’ posts I see floating around the blog-o-sphere are written on the assumption that ‘writing’ means ‘fiction writing’, and the challenges flow from the need to master content.

Essential writing fuel!
Essential writing fuel!

The problem in that – apart from the fact that writing is about a lot more than fiction writing – is that authors end up wrestling with the basic mechanics of physically writing something – as in, writing anything – at the same time as they are trying to master the complexity of content.

I think that needs breaking down a bit – deconstructing – to make it a simpler challenge. As the saying goes, the elephant can be eaten only in pieces (‘ewwwww!’).

To me, writing encompasses any form of written expression. My own writing encompasses short and long fiction (in which I was originally trained), non-fiction – academic papers, books, reviews – plus blogging. I can write other stuff as needed. All of it springs from a central core of ‘writing skill’ that I built up over many years, including through formal training.

And that’s the point. Once ‘writing’ as a skill of itself is mastered, the technique can be applied to any aspect of it. Sure, specialist knowledge is needed to create good content; and some specialist writing – such as advertising jingles – demands certain specialist knowledge. But that’s normal for any activity. But the basic ‘writing skill’ itself – meaning, the ability to assemble ideas into coherent and linear sentences, and to structure and style it according to purpose – applies anywhere.

I think it’s something that needs more emphasis. Get the fundamentals right, and a writer will definitely be on their way. That’s also something, I think, that isn’t given enough emphasis. Writing is often an assumed skill – something that arts students, or employees, or whatever, simply ‘have’. It’s from this supposition that those hoping to ‘become writers’ often launch – and promptly fall flat on their faces.

I look at it this way. A concert pianist doesn’t spring out of nowhere. Behind the scenes there are thousands of hours of structured learning, structured practise, and more structured practise. What’s more, the whole lot is built on a basic skill-set that (if it’s done right) applies to virtually any musical form and genre. The same’s true of writing.

Your thoughts?

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


4 thoughts on “Writing skills need to be built from the basics

  1. I like your analogy of the concert pianist. In writing, the skill has to be learned and then developed. Some writers began with a more skill than others, but they all have to be developed. This takes time and practice.

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