Writing History

22 April 2014

Thomas Mann wrote essays, novels, and short stories. He did it well enough to become a Nobel laureate. He also wrote: "A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people."

Today's test question is simple: Why is Mann right—or wrong?

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Submitted byyhoitinkon Tue, 04/22/2014 - 14:59

I think he is right. Non-writers type, writers craft. Writers carefully think about formulations, about selecting the just the right words to convey the intended meaning. Non-writers just put words to paper without giving it much thought beyond giving information. 

You nailed it, Yvette.

Writers worth their salt realize the need for precision in what they say, the need for care in the words they choose, the need for serious thought about how they organize their findings and their arguments.

As Thomas Mann noted, writing is "easier" for most people because most of us—before we become serious writers, at least—tend to throw words on paper and leave them however they fall. We know what we mean to say and assume that's good enough. Real writers, on the other hand, wrestle with every word, every sentence, and every paragraph. They rewrite and revise many times, struggling to ensure that their meaning is clear and their arguments are convincing. (And, of course, that's one reason why the 885-page EE took 10 years to produce :) .)