Writing is a general term for marking or recording an idea, information, data, or concept onto a medium which is created for that exact purpose. There are, however, instances where writing does occur on a surface that was not necessarily intended to be written upon: graffiti, for example, is the act of "writing" on a public surface, usually in spray paint, although it can also occur in pen, pencil, marker, chalk, or other media.
In the history of literature, a number of writers have made themselves popular for the kinds of subjects they write about or how they write. William Shakespeare, for example, was a famous writer of stage plays. Stephen King is a writer known for his writing of suspense and horror novels. Shel Silvenstein is a writer and poet of books for children.
History of Writing
Some of the earliest known works date back to civilizations that had an alphabet, in which they formed words and sounds to convey a subject or idea. The Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Greeks, and the Romans all had a system of letters and numbers which they used for this purpose, although the Roman alphabet or Latin alphabet became a de-facto standard for many "romance" languages that exist today (French, Spanish, Italian to name a few).
The ability of authors to support themselves entirely by their writing is a relatively recent phenomenon. Most authors of all types are probably employed by various organizations, including newspapers and magazines, foundations, universities, research institutes and other organizations. For authors of fiction and certain categories of nonfiction, including public affairs and history, the economics of authorship became sufficiently favorable for at least certain "best selling" authors, including Charles Dickens, in the early years of the nineteenth century.
How to write
Writing is an art. Good writing may be learned but the best writers are undoubtedly naturally skilled. Thus there are no guidelines to the type of writing that could make a good writer out of an average one. However, many writers wrote about their craft.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez presented his idea of a good writer in his book "Como se cuenta un cuento".. The book exposes the experience of a group of young writers working on the scripts of a TV series. Marquez's ideas on good writing are diluted in the book. His suggestion that a good writer is measured by the amount of text he discards rather than by how much is written is particularly inspiring. Astonishingly, Marquez also states that, to catch the reader, the writer should not even start writing unless he believes he is better than Cervantes.
Italo Calvino's idea of literature is set out in his posthumous essay Lezioni americane (i.e., "American lectures"), a collection of six lectures the Italian writer was scheduled to give at Harvard (Cambridge, Ma). Unfortunately, Calvino died before he could go to Harvard, but his wife Esther collected the notes into a book. The lectures are about the six qualities of literature Calvino believed could stand the new millennium, and thus define his view of what comprises good literature. These six qualities are lightness, rapidity, exactness, visibility and multiplicity. According to the text, these qualities should not only inform the activity of writers, but also guide "our unkempt, vague existence".
Technical writing is non-literary and generally non-fiction writing intended to convey information or knowledge to specialized audiences of experts and students of those subjects. Various modified forms of the essay are common forms of expression in technical writing. A few scientific journals attempt to advise on writing; one is the Style Notes for The Journal of Neuroendocrinology here. As I wrote them I don't comment further. They begin as follows:
"The purpose of writing is to convey information and ideas from one mind to another. Good writing achieves this efficiently, whether the subject is sex or science, and even if, as is often the case in neuroendocrinology, the subject is both.
Clarity of thought distinguishes the best of scientific writing, and clarity of expression is particularly important in scientific communication, where fast and efficient communication underpins collective progress. Yet it is still an apparently widespread misconception that, for a scientific paper to be good, it must be dull, or obscure, or both. No referee or editor has ever advised an author that a paper was unsuitable because it was too clear, too fluent, or too well written. On the other hand, it is a common complaint that, while a paper might contain interesting data, it is impossible to be sure because the introduction fails to make the purpose of the study clear, because the presentation of data is so confusing, because the discussion is so tortuous, or because the account of the methodology is so incomplete.
References and notes
- Marquez, G.G., 1995 - Como se cuenta un cuento. Debolsillo (August 2004), Spain, 256 pp. ISBN 978-8497594653
- Calvino, I., 1993 - Lezioni americane. Sei proposte per il prossimo millennio. Mondadori, Milano (Italy), 141 pp. ISBN 88-04-37592-2