19 October, 2013


By: Tendai Sibanda

    When this semester began, attending my first journalism Lecture (Wednesday 24 July 2013), I recall the astute warning that we received from our Journalism Lecturer Professor Marc Caldwell ‘writing is hard’.
   While not attempting to impose a theoretical frame work on this subject matter, Prof Caldwell brought to my attention a compelling and, at times, highly overlooked bitter truth of   journalistic work and writing.
    Onset let me clearly affirm that, it will be far beyond the reach of this article or of my knowledge to offer a comprehensively an unambiguous opinion for such an intricate predicament, but I will offer an eradicate intellect outlook nevertheless. To those who are ignorant and not keen writers/journalist it will appear to be a serious and shocking disclosure that was made by Prof Marc Caldwell but yet so true,  one that can be witnessed in almost in our daily lives, real time because of  current technology and the nature of the world we are living on.  Emphasis on writing has become so professional, because knowledge has become so vast, so complex, so diversified that not even to the surprise of most talented and well trained writers/journalists who still struggle to write, it is absolutely impossible to consider yourself a complete writer.
     If a Professor of media and communications observes that writing is hard, it triggers many questions, people are left wondering if we as communicators/journalist struggle so much with this art of writing which in practical to a layman sense in some ways, defines who we are and what we do? I’ll let you in on a secret: It’s not the writing that’s the problem. It’s the writer/journalist. As Prof Marc Caldwell acknowledges in his own words, “It is extremely difficult to get your approach and writing balance right”. Nor is he very vocal about his own personal experiences as he comments, “I find myself faced every week with the dilemma of how to approach my writing angle to get my ideas right and despite the fact that writing is a daily encounter”.  But, as he made us to take notice what we have been neglecting, I remember vividly his words. “Here is a little secret, writing is hard but with a bit of little effort and practicing ,the art of writing can be crafted,” A critical reflection on Prof Caldwell experiences, to me it becomes apparent that even to the most proficient writers/journalists its normal for them to have days when the words simply will not flow.
    Prof Caldwell delves into his experiences with the leading writers, journalists, thinkers who agree at least in principle that journalistic writing is hard and that good writing makes a good journalist, talented writer, good citizen and employee. It will not be out of place for me to say that almost any journalism/communication student will benefit from this bold statement, ‘writing is hard’, be it as an doorway point to motivation to inculcate the spirit and desire to become a better writer/journalist either many will use it as a reference point to improve their writing skills or perhaps as a reminder and inspiration of that writing is learnt not inherited.
    To me it is not amazing how words careful thought about can transform a simple idea and make it real. In writing it is neither about the words, nor the way those words are constructed. Good writer’s/journalist’s work must not lack both the context and the meaning on which the writer/journalist put up his/her ideas in a way that tempts us to imagine. And, most of all, writing it’s not either about just writing or communicating thoughts. Writing is an expression of the deeply human need; hence it must not only be to the best interest of the writer/journalist. This is why practising good writing skills for a journalist/writer so important. Writing is hard because we are person. Human beings are concerned, delicate individuals who think of every sole justification to adjourn that which we ought to be doing.
    Writing is full of life and a never ending process and this is what most people find hard about writing. That’s why some people prefer to call the art of writing; “the writing life” for it defines who you are and what you do. To me the complexity of writing has nothing to do with pen and script. It has to do with the human element, approach to ideas, empathy, character, and the brains behind the words.
    Writing as a skill is tricky, for it encompasses a lot of imprecise anonymity. Writers/journalists have not to pursue their entire interests but they are also obliged to think about their societal and audience needs, style of writing, and about the tone.  The combination and getting the balance of these factors right is hard to anchor down. In journalism, writing is inextricably tied to the newspaper’s editorial policy, the media house ideology and the identity of its readership. The journalists/writers have to think about what a media institution stands for, where it's going, and how that media house ideologies should be presented to the public and at the same time not forgetting their primary aim of serving the citizens with balanced factual reporting which also makes it even the writing part harder.
    Remember the 5 Ws+H [who (is involved), what (took place), where (did it take place), when (did it take place), why (did it happen), how (did it happen)]. It is basic, but how you order information is fundamental to better writing. There’s no reservation that writing is a talent, but with greater commitment, practice, determination rigid effort, countered with a right attitude and mind, and skills its of no doubt that it can be a rewarding form of experience and creativity.  The way to become a better communicator/journalist is just to write and perfect the art of writing. As Ray Bradbury once said: “Quantity produces quality. If you only write a few things, you’re doomed.”


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