Three Essences of Writing

Good writing sometimes happens by accident — but writing well is a function of discipline and purpose. Know what you want to say, know what you don’t want to say, and get there with minimum delay.

My Kung Fu background introduced me to a conscious outlook: that every person exists in three realms, the physical, mental, and spiritual. I say “conscious” outlook because deep down I already felt that way, just never expressed it as such. Our connection to those realms involves the three parts of our person: body, mind, and spirit. Perhaps no single spiritual or religious tradition can “own” that thought, as it exists in so many cultures and histories.

Extending the notion to the process of writing, we have three planes of comparison, three axes by which we can measure improvement.

Physical writing: More than just the layout of the words on the page, the physical aspect of writing is revealed in the way it sounds as you were to read it. Short sentences set tone. Punctuation dictates. Rhyme, rhythm, and meter matter. Even unspoken, the visceral nature of the written word may echo in the mind of the reader.

Mental writing: Beyond mere words, this is the exercise of deciding which concepts must introduce your grand conceit – which ones bridge as evidence – and which ought to close the argument. The selection of individual words for both denotation and connotation is part of the mental realm.

Spiritual writing: Good writing informs, great writing elevates. Often, it does so through the use of analogy and metaphor. The introduction of a concept through the prior understanding of something else builds up the reader instead of tearing him down. Parallelogram It also stretches the most out of communication – like teaching a child about a parallelogram by showing a rectangle that leans.

Good writing stands out. Great writing sneaks up on you; it makes you smarter and wiser, it inspires without calling attention to how. Great writing pleases the ear, the brain, and the soul.

(Thanks to Rich Becker for the post that got me thinking…)

[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, writing, Kung Fu, language[/tags]

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  1. Great think piece Ike. One that sparks entirely new ideas for consideration.

    I’m focusing on writing beyond nuts and bolts tonight and this is coming with me. It’s likely not the only place it will pop up.


  2. Good stuff, Ike.

    You really nailed something I’m always trying to achieve when I write.

    One of my core objectives is to remind the reader about a feeling that perhaps they’d forgotten – something tied to the primal in the reader. I do this not by frontal assault, but by laying the groundwork throughout the piece so when I deliver those last few lines, they rarely see it coming, but the feeling flows from within, and reminding them of a feeling they’d forgotten how to feel.

    Sneaky business, this writing.

  3. I am fortunate to be both a writer and an editor. Getting to see words from both angles has given me some great perspective.

    The concept of these axes for measuring writing is an excellent idea. Anyone looking to improve their skills should try looking at what they write from this perspective.

    Also, I checked out your link to Rich’s site and subscribed to his feed. Another excellent resource.

  4. How about mentally vomiting on a blog? Not that this ever happens.

  5. You could write a book, “Everything I Need to Know About Life I Learned from Kung Fu.”

    I am not kidding by the way, though I am being a little silly. You have written many posts from a Kung Fu point of view.

  6. Analogy and Story-loving Ike
    Then, you might also be interested in how to get in sync with an audience
    and the power of repetition
    or how public speaking is like oil drilling

  7. love it. but the spiritual stuff . . the analogies and metaphors only work if you have specific examples that you’re citing (I’m thinking again of the carl thing . . am thinking generally, some of these pieces could use and benefit from and be made more colorful by specific examples . . . . .and still be timeless.)


  1. iJump! says:

    links for 2008-02-01…

    Occam?s RazR » Blog Archive » Three Essences of Writing
    Good writing is appropriate to all forms of marketing, including social media!
    (tags: writing)

  2. […] It can be the difference between informing and inspiring. Along this kick, I’ve mentioned writing at multiple levels and sources of […]

  3. Finishing my keynote presentation for class tomorrow. Three Essences of Writing by @ikepigott is still relevant.

  4. Ike Pigott says:

    @RichBecker – Wow. I used to be pretty good. What happened to the guy who wrote that? 😉

  5. Ike Pigott says:

    @annagliss – That, and learn to write.