Saturday, November 26, 2016

You're not writing to a computer; you're writing to a person

From time to time, we are all writers. We all post and email and some of us prepare documents to communicate ideas or information. Writing can be a lonely activity: it feels like it's just you and the computer screen. As you try to wrestle your information into words, your vision might close in until there is nothing but you and the screen you are filling with your words.

This is a terrible way to think about writing. Even your personal journal will make a better contribution to your well-being if you look up and around. You are not writing alone: you are writing because you are not alone. Even if the person who will read your writing is another version of you, you are writing so that someone can read what you have written and make sense of the world differently because of it.


If you were writing code for a computer, the computer would carry out your instructions. The interchange might get ugly if you wrote ugly code, but there would be no escalation of bad feelings and bad feelings would not lead to bad judgment. Human readers are very different. Your words inspire a mood or attitude, and that attitude colours their response to the information you present and to whatever response is required of them.

Good writers remember that the mood they inspire in the reader is likely to generate the response they get. They don't wrestle with words: they wrestle with the responses that words or strategies are likely to get from the human readers who will receive them. Their communication is not a flow of words; it's an unfolding interaction where words trigger perceptions and perceptions trigger responses.

There is no content so simple that it cannot alter the mood of the person who reads it. Remembering that your words will trigger a response and that response will trigger the way your ideas are interpreted is the first step towards writing that works better for you.

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