I came across this lecture by Larry McEnerney from the University of Chicago Writing Program over on LinkedIn and I got so much from it. Larry makes some wonderful points about writing better. He talks about how we’re taught to follow the rules of writing rather than thinking about how our writing can be valuable by helping to change how readers think about the world. Writing is a process of working out what you think, but the purpose of good writing should be to do that – to change how readers think about the world. And yet it is so often not taught like that in school: “You think that writing is communicating your ideas to your readers. It is not”.
Larry is talking about this in the context of academic writing but I think this is applicable in a much broader sense. The whole thing is worth watching but the part I write about here is from 9.10-13.43.
This idea that we write and think at the same time, that these are not separate parts of the same process (we think, then we write), that we use the writing process as a way to help us to think (‘to help yourself do your thinking, you have do your writing’) is very important to me personally, but also criminally under-rated.
That’s why writing for traffic or engagement is never the most valuable form of writing. That’s why the most valuable writing draws its own kind of attention – the right kind of attention. It’s also arguably why content produced by GenerativeAI is not, for now at least, the most valuable type of content.