I got to thinking today (always a bad sign) about how I would start a class on writing. That is, suppose I had to teach a class on writing to total novices, what would I say at the very beginning of the first class. Now, being an unpublished writer of science fiction, the thought of me teaching a class on writing is laughable at best, but in my mind I can ignore the fact that I probably don’t have the faintest idea of what I’m talking about and go on to the class itself. So, where to start?
I’d start by saying that writing is one form of communication. Granted, that’s not very profound, but it is a necessary beginning. Every writer is trying to communicate an idea. He/She’s trying to say something. Writers are the type of people who put ideas down on paper or on a computer screen so that others can read it. A very simple idea.
But what we sometimes lose sight of is the necessity of making sure our ideas get through. It’s a writer’s job to make sure that the idea gets through into the mind of the reader. It’s the writer’s job to be clear in his expression of the idea he/she’s trying to make. It doesn’t matter if a writer is writing poetry, fiction, essay, memoir, or whatnot, it’s the idea at the center of the writing that is the important thing. If you, as a writer, aren’t making your idea clear, then you are a total, miserable, abject, tragic failure as a writer.
Writing is a two-way street, to use a well-known cliché. In addition to the writer, someone has to read the words, in other words, a reader has to exist to complete the picture. There are always two (2) people involved in writing. Writing without a reader is just chicken-scratching and is totally meaningless. The idea, the concept within that writing, has to get through absolutely.
I suppose this concept applies most strongly to poetry. I’ve read a lot of poetry that communicates a good idea, but I’ve also read some poetry, experimental mostly, in which the concept, the reason for the poem, is just lost. At least on me. But this basic tenant also applies to all forms of writing, and we all need to be sure we’re communicating a good idea, a good concept, with our writing.