How I Write

I’ve been thinking lately about how I’ve developed my writing style. Many factors affected my writing, and I can trace some back to early childhood. I’m not very good at writing in narrative, so here goes nothing.

First, I inherited some of my writing/thinking ability from my parents. Both my mom, who has a degree in social work, and my dad, an OPC pastor, are sharp, clear, and thoughtful people. From them I also “inherited” my personality – which has been shaped by a combination of genes, upbringing, and environmental context. Some people have described my personality as linear, analytical, and frankly not very creative. This comes across in my writing.

My writing ability started forming from an early age. As early as I can remember, I was a reader. From The Bernstein Bears to Sugar Creek Gang to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, I read at all ages. My parents also sent us kids to a private school (American Christian School) for nine years, which had great language and literature teachers. Probably most formative for me were my fifth through eighth grade teachers like Mrs. Hendricks and Miss Off who drilled us in grammar, syntax, and the art of writing.

I don’t think my (public) high school years were as formative as grades five to eight, but college definitely was. As a Communication major and Sociology minor at a rigorous liberal arts school that required five (or six?) humanities core classes, it seemed like I was perpetually writing essays and papers. Grading papers as a student assistant and close relationships with my professors also helped.

Perhaps one of the most helpful recent “events” in shaping my writing habits was reading through my wife‘s scholarly papers. Pursuing her doctorate in clinical psychology, she is, like, way more smarter than I am, eh. Thus, by reading her papers I was able to pick up tips in vocabulary, sentence structure, argumentation, and tone. Arguably most helpful was learning from her excellent use of transition words in beginning, continuing, or ending sentences.

Part of what brought this post on for me was the reflection of how my mind works. I think better in words than I do in pictures or even in complete thoughts. How this plays out practically is that I can write my thoughts considerably more effectively, clearly, and understandably than I can speak them. I’m not talking about casual conversation, but about times that require more thought.

I’m not sure if that’s a problem or not, but I’m mostly okay with it. I am working on “using my words” more effectively, and want to develop my thought process for speaking more. I also know my writing style or habits have their issues. For one, I am too verbose (like in this post), not succinct enough (like in this post), and often struggle with clarity (like in this post). Additionally, I often talk around points – repeating the same thought or argument once, twice, or several times in different paragraphs while virtually saying the same thing in each.

Lastly, I often struggle with conclusions.


4 thoughts on “How I Write

  1. I love you, and you are doing much better with using your words :-). I’m so flattered that you apparently think so highly of my scholarly writing! You just earned yourself a permanent position on my dissertation editing team!

  2. Joel, because I am so inept at communicating, via the written or spoken word, I am keenly aware that you have much talent in these areas. (Although, I agree with your comment about Liz, she blows us all out of the water!) But, since you are a Pearce, you will not settle for a C or even a B–you need an A+. I’ll take the B’s and C’s for you šŸ™‚ And, no doubt, you’ve come very far in your writing skills, you will get much better! For now, I personally enjoy your writing šŸ™‚

  3. Preparing sermons is an interesting exercise in this regard. Writing “takes the fuzz off our thinking” CS Lewis said, and that’s true as we are thinking through a text of Scripture too. Yet the written and spoken word are quite different, and something that looks good in writing might come across pedantic or stiff when spoken. Additionally, a sermon requires the entirety of ourselves (intellect, faith, emotion, etc) — so writing out thoughts is never enough.


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