Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Difficult Writing

One of the tasks I have at work today is to write a press release about the support being offered to the charity I work for by another, larger and much richer, charity. I have to announce this with major fanfare about how delighted we are to be working with them, what exciting new opportunities it offers for both charities as well as those despairing souls we aid, and generally proclaim a new age of harmony, happiness, rainbows and fluffy bunnies. But ... I'm not allowed to actually explain what it is they are doing to help us. Now that's going to be a challenge.

A few months ago I was asked to write a letter of support from a group of friends to another friend who had been wrongly accused of a crime. That wasn't easy either. In fact, I think I gave up in the end and we all expressed our support verbally instead. Over an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet, as I remember.

In my writing group a couple of months ago we did an exercise where we had to describe in detail a scene, but from the perspective of a blind person. The photograph I was asked to describe was of St. Pancras Station in the Victorian age. We had five minutes. Here's my effort:

"I judged it to be almost midday by the radiant warmth of the sun which beat heavily upon my shoulders through the station’s famous glass roof. About me was the gentle hum of many muted conversations, the swishing of silken skirts and the tapping of canes and umbrellas. The sounds, like the sun, were amplified by the cavernous space. The smell of hot steam mixed with coal dust was thick enough almost to mask the rich musky odour of the leather trunks waiting to be loaded, and from it I estimated that at least four trains impatiently awaited those cases and passengers."

For most writers, writing comes fairly easily, even naturally. But to be a really great writer, you need to exercise your writing muscles. That means relishing challenges that come your way; offering to write a Best Man speech for a friend, or taking the opportunity to put pen to paper and remonstrate with a child's teacher over a grade, or writing to a missionary who's struggling in the field. It's all good practice.

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