Understanding and Clarity

Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Photo | Nickton via Flickr
During a recent lunch with a friend, she mentioned how she had to fire a client. As a writing professional, she offers her clients one revision in the price of her services. When she gave him his draft, he added information that hadn't been in the original brief she had received and he asked her to revise the additional information within the document.

From my friend's perspective, the client hadn't adequately explained the subject. While the back and forth was slightly more complicated than that, she boiled it down to: If you can't explain a process so others can understand it, then you probably don't really know the process.

This really translates to writing about a subject that may not be your strong suit.

Lately my writing and editing clients have required me to conduct a lot more research than I ordinarily have to do. (Think astrophysics to my breezy features of interesting local business leaders.) Some of the assignments turned out to be more difficult than others. In at least one case, the writing was made more difficult because I 't read about the subject but couldn't then explain what I'd read to my husband, for example.

The writing was difficult because I didn't really know the material. If you can't explain it, then how much do you really understand about what you are talking about?

In later assignments, I fell back on a way to research and write that I've found works well for me. I
  • read the research, 
  • take notes and 
  • then let it settle in my mind. 
Once I've stepped away from the research, I can see it more clearly and, yes, even understand the process or information much better. During that "quiet time" of 24 to 48 hours, an idea might come to me about the subject and I'll jot it down. But I won't return to the research until I sit down to start writing again.

The clarity of the writing comes from your understanding of the subject. Now, to get ready to understand some turkey!

Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor living in coastal North Carolina. One of the things she is most thankful for this Thanksgiving is all the wonderful readers of WOW! Thank you for your readership and comments. Have a super holiday.


Unknown said...

Research works!

Margo Dill said...

I think this is very true for all parts of the writing process. For example, when you receive a critique or edit on a rough draft, you often have to let it sit and think about it awhile before you go and revise. They always say to put a manuscript in a drawer for a week when you think it's done and then get it back out and see it with "fresh" eyes. I think what you are saying about research is also a good idea. Our minds are working on stuff even when we don't realize it!

LuAnn Schindler said...

Agree! Sometimes you need to take a step back and let ideas simmer. The only problem is that sometimes, it takes a while for the pot to begin warming up, so to speak. :)

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