Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I want to write

That's a common refrain of many aspirants who want to become journalists. A subset of these also believe that they're award-winning material. Which is all good, except for the sad fact that a very large subset of these don't know the first thing about writing.

Apart from being extremely personal and subjective, the art and technique of writing cannot be easily defined. At the very least, good writing needs to convey information without confusing the reader. At its best, a well-written piece touches a chord with the readers.

Good writing is not merely stringing together grammatically correct sentences or using big words. Journalists, particularly, are also afflicted with the desire to sound knowledgeable about their subject. Most cannot resist the temptation of either sounding pedantic or cynical, to show that they're above the subjects of their writing. Slowly, this attitude seeps into life as well; which is why many senior journalists are pretty unbearable human beings.

Copy editing or reviewing a piece of information almost always holds the same dilemma for the editor--how much to rewrite and how much to let be, especially if the writer in question is obviously awful, but has too big an ego to see that. Of course, the writer could say the same thing about the editor's ego. And so, after a tough mental debate, I try to carve out a fine piece from the rough copy handed to me, and make it appear as if it was the writer's intention to do so. If I succeed, the finished product becomes my object of joy; if I don't, well, it's still better than what it was. And as you can see from this blog, I want to write too.