by William K. Zinsser
"Reduce your discipline -- whatever it is -- to a logical sequence of clearly thought sentences. You will thereby make it clear not only to other people but to yourself. You will find out whether you know your subject as well as you thought you did. If you don't, writing will show you where the holes are in your knowledge or your reasoning." (p. 198)
I wrote about this find a couple days ago, but now I've finished it. I loved this book! Writing To Learn is not so much a how-to book as it is a book of examples of good non-fiction writing. There are excerpts from books and papers on a wide range of topics, many of which I never would have thought I would have found interesting. Why would I want to read about water snakes in Missouri? Or chemistry's periodic table? Or the theory of relativity? Because there are people out there who can make those subjects the most fascinating thing you've ever heard in your life, that's why! I'm devastated that my library doesn't carry An Excellent Fishe by Archie Carr, a book about sea turtles. I've already put in my request for The Insect World of J. Henri Fabre because of his description of ant behavior. Ants! Seriously. It was amazing!
Whether or not I actually read the books or writings that this little book brought to my attention is irrelevant. The point is that written with inspiration, enthusiasm, and most importantly, clarity, any topic is worth reading and writing about. And writing about what you learn is the best way to organize and reinforce your new scholarship!
One of my favorite sections was where Zinsser talked about keeping writing simple and concise. Pompous or ambiguous writing is hiding the author's lack of reasoning ability or knowledge on a subject, or they are writing for their own ego. (Writing aimed at specialists in a field are not included in that generalization.) If you're writing to inform, then make it accessible to the everyday person. The ability to educate one's self should not be limited to those who are already in the know.
I found this book to be tremendously inspiring to both my self-education and writing goals. I wasted no time in ordering another of Zinsser's books, On Writing Well, The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. I feel like I'm on my way!
NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)
Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!