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Opinions are fun. My friends tell me I am someone with lots of opinions and that's fine since I don't get mad at others when they disagree with me. In this same spirit I am interested in hearing yours views as long as you are able to share your views without boiling over. I look forward to hearing from you. I tend to write in the form of short essays most of the time, but contributions do not need to be in this same format or size. Some of the content here will date itself pretty quickly, other content may be virtually timeless, this is for the reader to judge.


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How and Why I write                                                                                     Print this essay

Posted at: Aug/03/2010 : Posted by: mel

Related Category: Self,

I thought I should share this in case my actions and experience have the chance opportunity to inspire others.

First of all you should know that I am mostly a very technical person. The majority of my education is in the engineer disciplines. This is because I like math and physics based challenges where you get to test your work in a clear and measurable way. Writing on the other hand is very subjective and the rules for “proper” writing have always escaped my grasp. In my primary education I was presented with elaborate sentence diagrams whose rules and long list of special cases totally frustrated me to the point where I decided not to try or pay attention any further. By the time I graduated high school my math and science skills along with reading comprehension were very high, on the other hand my writing skills left me bordering on not graduating. Is this anything you can relate to?

My first and primary savior was Professor Jean Underwood (passed away many years ago) who during my freshman year of college adopted me as a personal challenge, maybe also out of pity. Dr. Underwood noted that I was a good speaker and felt that if I could talk well, there is no reason I couldn’t write better. Dr. Underwood therefore had me focus on two things which I am going to share with you.

1. She said I should write like I talk. Talking and writing are both communication and the rules for sharing an intelligent idea shouldn’t be significantly different between the two. If talking in a logical and insightful way flows easily, talk to the paper. It is all about sharing words and writing is only the medium.

2. She also said I should “orate” to solve many of my grammar problems. For obvious reasons the rules of punctuation eluded me since I gave up listening years ago. Her guidance was that once I write something I should go back and read it out loud (or softly if others are around). The reason for this was that I would naturally pause where a period or comma was needed and could then make that edit. This rule is not perfect, but tends to get me pretty close.

When I started doing the two things encouraged by Dr. Underwood my writing grades went up significantly and the process was definitely not as painful. The evolution and easy access to the personal computer and word processing applications was the last step in making writing accessible for me. With a word processor I could “brain-dump” thoughts and ideas in no particular order to a file. Once the thoughts were in a file I would merely drag-n-drop moving and rearranging content until I felt my ideas were organized into a theme or flow. For those of you who are old enough to remember before the PC in the typewriter era, a change potentially required a complete “re-type”. With the PC I could effectively write once and rearrange or edit as much as needed with a minimum of pain. I know, it is not the top-down, or outline based format that is often taught in schools, but it is a viable technique that leverages the existing technology. More importantly, this technique does not leave me stymied.

I suspect if you are reading this you are also seeing errors somewhere in my grammar or word usage. I will confess that my writing is not “A” grade work. I would like to think that I am achieving C+ to B grade results but again, this is an exercise in self-improvement.

Despite my knowledge and skills in math and technology, I have learned that ultimately to advance in the professional ranks you have to be able to communicate in an acceptable manner. That means speaking, listening, presenting, and writing are all important skills despite my belief years ago I could avoid these hurdles. To a greater extent than I expected I have come to realize we also measure each other by our communication skills. Surprisingly, even if your writing skills are considered poor, I’ll bet you can recognize good writing when you see it verses the other stuff. This implies that those of us who are writing challenged know where improvement is needed even if we can't define for ourselves what those improvements should be. Sounds strange doesn't it, even if you can't write, you know the good stuff.

In my current work situation I get tasked with writing on a regular basis and I have garnered regular criticism for my writing. Strange person that I am, I finally got tired of the comments and decided to start writing short essays to challenge, practice, and hopefully improve my writing skills. I know, self-improvement is somewhat unique, but I have never been especially good at being normal. At the current time I have published approximately 70 short essays over an eighteen month period. I can look at my earlier writing and feel there is improvement between now and then. Unfortunately, my work leadership still criticizes my work. Despite the criticism I am not going to stop, I am finding that I am actually having fun writing, how did that happen! I suspect there is also something here about self-improvement being a never ending process.

My style for most of these essays is inspiration driven. I get most of this inspiration from conversation, but some of it comes from current events as well. I start by dumping ideas to a new file in the word processor. Depending on the subject I might do some complementary research before I edit and publish for commentary. Generally the gestation period for an essay is 2-3 days.

It is my hope that these few words may inspire others that writing does not have to be painful, and if you can endure the insults, write to your own rules. If you have something to say, the medium of writing should not challenge you anymore than a good conversation.

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Paul Erlich
The first rule of tinkering is to save all the parts.
 
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