Almost all of us in the civilized world are experienced writers. All who have attended grade school have already written a sizeable number of compositions in their subject classes. There are certain things therefore that we may take for granted.
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We are thus not beginners and possess some good writing habits that we should retain. On the other hand, we also have some writing weaknesses to be overcome. The best solution will be to build up the strong points, get rid of the weaknesses, and add some techniques which will make the task of improving our writing skills easier.
Whenever one writes a letter, a theme, or a book report, he is writing a “composition” – he is composing. A cardinal rule which is essential for all forms of composition is one must have a forceful beginning, an interesting and sensible body, and a logical conclusion. There is no need to be reminded that, especially in the business world, when you put yourself down on paper, you are exposing yourself to the scrutiny and judgment of the people around you in a more detailed manner than by your attire, your speech, or your over-all personality.
Every inexperienced writer wants to know how to handle a topic, assigned or voluntary, and say something both appropriate and interesting about it. Well, here is a set of rules to be followed if you want to know how to make your introduction more interesting; how to improve the transition between paragraphs; how to avoid dullness and repetition; how to eliminate sentence structure and usage errors; and how to stay on the subject.
First of all, knowing the “motive” is of prime importance. What really is the writer going to write about? Lu Chi has this to say (based on a translation by Sam Hamill):
“Standing erect in the center of it all, the poet views the expanse of the whole universe, and in ancient masterpieces, his spirit rejoices and finds nurture. His lament for fleeting life is in observance of the four seasons as they pass, his regard for the myriad growing things inspires in him thoughts innumerable.”
In this initial stage of the writing process, the writer selects what is to write about. Even in assigned writing, there is room for choice. As the message to an early learner goes – “The world is so full of a number of things, I am sure we should be as happy as kings!”
Next comes meditation before writing. The classical advice runs thus:
“In the beginning, all external vision and sound are suspended. Perpetual thought itself gropes in time and space; then, the spirit at full gallop reaches the eight limits of the cosmos, and the mind, self-buoyant, will ever soar to new insurmountable heights.”
All other barriers to concentration must first be eliminated such as hushing the baby’s wailing or removing the roast from the oven (in the case of the housewife).
Rules governing the working process are next online. “All objects visible under the sun or moon will the poet bring into the light, all that can give out a sound he will ring to test their resonance.” Such expressions that will not contribute to the clarity and fullness of sound must be crossed out. Quality rules over quantity.
Next, the writer “may either work from the obscure to the obvious or follow an easy course to what is hard to obtain.” This is easier said than done, but it can be done.
Lu Chi continues: “When the substance of a composition, trunk of a tree, is by truth sustained, style aids it to branch into leafy boughs and bear fruit.” Style, after all, reveals one’s individuality, originality, and creativity and lends a great deal of interest to the composition.
“Indeed, feeling and expression should never fail to correspond, as each emotional change wears a new complexion on a sensitive face.” If the two fail to get together in a love letter, how is Romeo going to win Juliet?
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We agree with Lu Chi when he next extols the joy of writing this:
“Writing is in itself a joy,
Yet saints and sages have long since held it in awe.
For it is being, created from a void;
It is sound rung out of profound silence.
In a sheet of paper is contained the infinite,
And, evolved from an inch-sized heart, an endless panorama.”
Verily, a writer has many attributes of God. And like God, commands, “Let there be light; and there was light!”
The Chinese philosopher next expounds on Form.. He offers his readers a classification of literature as regards form. We name a few:
- “The lyric, born of pure emotion, is a gossamer fiber woven into the finest fabric;”
- “The elegy tenderly spins out ceaseless heartfelt grief.”
- “While the eulogy enjoys the full abandon of grand style,”
- “The expository must inexactitude and clarity excel.”
- “Rhetoric with glowing words and cunning parables persuades.”
- “These classifications are meticulous, Lest passion and thought, given free rein, may wantonly go astray. The maxim: Let the truth be expressed in the most appropriate terms, while of verbiage beware.”
All grammar teachers warn us to shun wordiness.
What goes into the making of a composition? The pros have this to say:
“A composition comes into being as the incarnation of many living gestures. It is the embodiment of endless change.
To attain meaning, it depends on a grasp of the subtle,
While such words are employed as best serve beauty’s sake.”
And how are we to attain beauty? By stating the truth, of course, truth and beauty are often regarded as identical. But again, the truth must be stated in a subtle way as to evoke a bit of mystery and the interest and joy of discovery.
“A composition is ruined when a later passage swells to engulf its forerunners, or encroaches on all that follows.” In short, there must not only be balance: There must also be ordered. Flowery expressions are also taboo. “Lavish expressions may contain abundant truth,
But fail to direct and drive the meaning home.” So, sometimes it is best to write simply and in straightforward language for clarity. The expert continues by stating his argument that “What is fully expressed will exclude duality, and what is worth continuing must not be cut off.”
We are grateful to Lu Chi for his epigrams. They constitute a great help towards honing our writing skills. But there are countless other admonitions that the ambitious writer may avail of. In the meantime, the above will suffice. We can learn much from what has been offered here plus what we ourselves have learned from experience. Hopefully, combined, will help us write much better. Happy writing, folks!