I had an interesting meeting last week with a very diverse group of people, one of whom turned out to be a playwright. As we were leaving, we discussed writing, and I commented that I was finding academic style somewhat constraining.
Yesterday I had a bit of an ‘aha’ moment (also a bit of a ‘duh’ moment, as my insight may be blindingly obvious to everyone but me). I had to read a chapter (which I had expected to be thoroughly dull and dry) in a textbook. My whole head yawned at the prospect. The piece turned out to be extremely well written.
The author, an expert in his chosen field for about a hundred years, had taken me gently by the hand and walked me through his world (or a simplified version of it), pointing out landmarks and points of interest as we passed by them. He made completely sure that he didn’t lose me along the way, or let me stumble over a clumsy word or thought he’d left untidily in my path. Every now and then, we paused to allow me to see the ground that we’d covered so far, and to look ahead to see where we were heading next.
What he had done so skilfully was to guide me through his argument from opening premise to conclusion, letting the baton pass effortlessly from one paragraph to the next to carry his logic forward to the finishing line. I was suitably impressed and not a little daunted.
Suddenly after 5 or 6 years of churning out course assignments, often doing just enough to pass, I looked at the tasks ahead of me with entirely new eyes. Admittedly, this particular chap has a lifetime of marinading in a vat of knowledge in his narrow field of interest (see my earlier post on ‘spoondigging’), whereas I have flitted butterfly-like, exploring many different yet connected landscapes. No matter. To borrow Paul Klee’s idea, I am inspired to work much harder at taking my particular line for a walk in my writing.