how to write

One of the first rules of rhetoric is that one know one's audience. It is argued that for well over a century, the publishing industry has changed in such a way as to cater to the "popular" as opposed to the "refined" (i.e. that of the classically educated sensibility). This change led in Victorian times to the emergence of writers like Ruskin, who wrote about elevated themes in a compelling way. He was evocative in his imagery, and translated his philosophical ideas into clear metaphors. This is considered the transitional period from the elevated to the popular. It is argued that television has suffered an extension of the same fate - and that, Ruskin now far behind us, "popular" standards are no longer philosophical.
But what is popularity? We all know that one can prestidigitate an audience into existence by captivating attention for a period of time, in the same way that quack doctors peddle their wares. It is prudent to return to one of the closing paragraphs in The Elements of Style: "Many references have been made in this book to "the reader" - he has been much in the news. It is now necessary to warn the writer that his concern for the reader must be pure.. Let him start... glancing at the Trend Machine, and he is as good as dead, although he may make a nice living."
I'd argue for a broadened dialogue of what it is to be alive. In order for this to happen, though, our analytical skills need refinement, to penetrate the depth of the human character. We are not cartoons, and the most compelling stories are often those of great personal transformation. It is a little known fact that Bismarck said: Only an arse doesn't change its mind.
"'Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.' is the writer, and therefore what a man is, rather than what he knows... If one is to write, one must believe - in the truth and worth of the scrawl, in the ability of the reader to receive and decode the message. No writer can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence," write Strunk and White.
So, to know one's audience is to know oneself and to have faith that the unraveling of the inner labyrinth is a task worth undertaking. That it is, first and foremost, a labour worth sharing. One has only to think of The Odyssey or The Argonautika to understand what this means on a most literal level. Life is a journey: we pick up tricks of the trade of this trip through the narrated accounts of those with true character - only revealed painfully in time, through trial after trial, even through mistakes on which the powerful sometimes take pity. The false is the quack doctor, and we all know what we can expect from him.
That sometimes communication becomes more the bread and circus is not a sign so much of the human soul, but of the answer to the dynamics of power. But we know from history that eras come and go. So, the question becomes: are we writing for our era, or for humanity? As an esteemed antiques appraiser once said: there was as much trash in antiquity as there is today.
I believe that to write well is to write for all ages. And that to write for all ages is to write in an attempt to clarify one's own life, to become aware of the exaggerations of one's own soul - like becoming a doormat in the name of being virtuous - and to overcome these obstacles through the act of faith that it is possible to grow in one's life in ways one could not foresee in the beginning.

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