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Odds and Ends: The false romance of writing

A great book was written way back in 1918, then expanded on in 1959 and in other editions. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is essentially the Swiss army knife of writing – small and bland, but wildly useful when you need it. The book aside, the foreword written by Roger Angell, White's stepson, resounds with all writers: “Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time.” 

There is a pretty big misconception about writing, and that is that it’s this romantic affair between the author and a blank piece of paper or an empty Word document. Media outlets make writing out to be some odd thing in which you go on a date with your words; in reality, it’s a long-term relationship in which you sit at opposite ends of the couch and argue over what to watch on TV. 

Writing, at its core, is a grueling task that makes the background music on C-SPAN somehow seem entertaining. (Note: This is not a jab at C-SPAN but rather a jab at the less-than-exciting elevator music it plays between senate sessions. But it seems as if C-SPAN can’t play the best of Frank Ocean, so here we are.) 

To be a writer takes a certain amount of gusto and the ability to accept that your work probably isn’t good enough. And when you take it to an editor, you find out that you did everything wrong, and you want to give it up altogether. 

“It isn’t good enough; I wish it were better,” Angell writes of watching his stepfather’s struggle with writing. He says his stepfather would sit in his study for hours at a time, and furious clicks of the keyboard would often interrupt the calm pacing that came from behind the closed doors. 

But does that sort of technique translate to today? Being your own biggest critic, not having all the words there at once and then hating the final thing you write? Short answer: yes. Long answer: yes, absolutely. That’s at least how this column was written, for whatever that may be worth to you. 

So between paces, you do your best to figure out what words best complement one another. And in that, you probably get mad about how you aren’t living in a spacious New York City loft with exposed brick walls — because exposed brick is how success as a writer is measured in soap operas, maybe. 

And when you sit back down after your aggressive pacing, you’ll continue to put words to thought. But it isn’t easy. You might hate your final draft. It may get torn apart by your editor, and you may get discouraged. And that’s OK. Getting torn apart by an editor is usually the first step to having something that you maybe don’t hate, which is a cool thing. 

Writing is hard. Words are hard. Grammar is weird. These are all facts.

At the end of it all though, getting the hang of writing is one of most important skills a person can have. The pen is mightier than the sword, as they say. 

This incessant ramble took two hours to write, and it isn’t anywhere near good enough. Alas.

Chuck Greenlee is a junior studying communication studies at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Did you actually read this nonsense? Let Chuck know by tweeting him @chuck_greenlee.

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