I have a confession. When I write, I do it badly. What I have learned is how to edit. To revise and proofread. Now I let something sit for a week, or a year. I stare at my words and I make changes. Maybe I change it back. Then I undo that. When I commit words to screen, I do so by rewriting. It is anything but smooth. It was pleasant to read William Zinsser in On Writing Well who shares my opinion: “rewriting is the essence of writing.” I am surprised I did not come across Zinisser’s first-rate book before. Now, in its Seventh Edition, Zinisser wrote the book to complement Skunk and White’s handy guide.
Today, I have been struggling with writer’s block. Going from coffee shop to café and trying to start the next chapter in my dissertation. In writing this year, I am learning a craft. It complements the ethnographers’ art I learned in the field. In Colombia, I cultivated the art of fieldwork: taking part, talking to people, and writing about the experience. The hard part is ‘writing it up.’
Zinisser, like many other guides, tools, anthropologists, and writers offers directions to improve this craft.
Gruber and Merlin Mann discuss it in The Talk Show Episode 61.