Ars Scribendi – The Art of Writing, If Not Well, At Least Not Badly

St Jerome in His Study by Antonello da Messina, ca. 1474 (wikipedia commons)

You could compile the worst book in the world entirely out of selected passages from the best writers in the world. Gilbert K. Chesterton

There is an old adage that there is no such thing as good writing, only good re-writing, and, we may perhaps add, even better re-re-writing. Mozart could apparently produce perfect symphonies in one sitting, but most of us need several just for one essay. I was  just reading about Orwell’s 1984, and the one remaining original manuscript is a yellowed type-written page, scribbled over with emendations and additions. I’m sure the same could be said of all great, good and even middling works. How much paper ended up in the wood stove, or, in our day, whole swathes of laboured prose deleted from screens. (Which is the preferable mode of composing is a matter for another day…)

Like any art, writing is a work in progress. Readers may have noticed some typos in what we have written and published – mea culpa! – fingers missing keys, and one’s brain working faster than one’s fingers. Quis custodiet custodes also applies to editing one’s own work. Some articles may also be slightly altered over time (or with re-posting (as with the saints’ lives). That is both the good and bad of internet publishing. It is often hasty, and we should all learn to take a deep breath and not react emotionally, always open to reconsidering our position on contingent matters. As Saint James says in today’s first reading, ‘Be quick to listen, but slow to speak’…and perhaps even slower to write.

Sometimes, things are phrased infelicitously, with injudicious analogies and rash judgements. We pray, ponder and reflect – hopefully, most of which is done a priori, but at times, continues a posteriori.

We here at Catholic Insight are always open to receiving feedback, criticism, words of encouragement. These may be put into the comments section, or, if you prefer more privacy, sent along directly to yours truly.

At the end of the day, writing often follows Pontius Pilate’s retort to those who asked him to revise his words: quod scripsi, scripsi– And, whether wittingly or unwittingly, he told the truth. So too we may hope that in our own imperfect and often not fully baked phrasing and scribbling, the truth may win out, in the end.

My own gratitude for accompanying us on the pilgrimage, wherever it may lead. To heaven, ultimately, we may hope.

Ad veritatem, in caritate! +