The Hard Part is the Thinking

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Writing is a tool that enables people in every discipline to wrestle with facts and ideas. It’s a physical activity, unlike reading. Writing requires us to operate some kind of mechanism–pencil, pen, typewriter, word processor–for getting our thoughts on paper. It compels us by the repeated effort of language to go after those thoughts and organize them and present them clearly. It forces us to keep asking, “Am I saying what I want to say?” Very often the answer is “No.” It’s a useful piece of information.

William Zinsser, Writing to Learn: How to Write–and Think–Clearly About Any Subject at All, p. 49

This is why I have come to prefer writing sermons, and many other things I want to communicate. So much of what I say, at least at first, is not what I want to say. I would not be able to discover what I want to say apart from writing. Those first thoughts can prove to be fluff, inconsequential, inexact, unclear, distracting, misleading, or false. Unclear writing stems from unclear thinking, and unclear thinking manifesting itself in speech or on paper can not only misinform, but do harm.

Zinsser later says, “If you force yourself to think clearly you will write clearly. The hard part isn’t the writing; the hard part is the thinking.” That’s why so many of us shy away from it. Thinking clearly can be hard work.

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