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The Wise Man and the Common Man

December 6, 2017

In my humble, questionably wise opinion, I think Aristotle was onto something. Writing thoughtfully can, sometimes, allow us to do more than entertain or even merely educate our readers. We have the opportunity to inspire, to cause them to think beyond their normal everyday realm, to open new doors of possibility, and of reality. We can introduce readers to the wider world that exists beyond their own sphere. That's the thinking like a wise person part.

 

Then, we have to find a way to write what we've learned in a way that is not pedantic, but reader-friendly. Friends often tell me they enjoy getting letters from me, because I write as I talk, so they feel like I'm sitting in the room, chatting with them. Now, few books should be quite so casual and familiar, but I have read some books and short stories in which the author had taken that approach, and I've found them to be pleasurable and worth the read. I don't think for a minute that Aristotle intended for writers to "dumb it down" but rather to write in such a way that it doesn't require the reader to mull  over each paragraph intensely in order to grasp the meaning.

 

I suppose the takeaway is to write your first draft, then when it's time to read it again with fresh eyes, be sure to consider whether it is understandable and entertaining. Even heavy reading can, in its own way, be enjoyable. Presented well, deep topics can introduce new concepts that prompt Aha! moments of discovery for readers. I hold David McCullough in high esteem (as does the Pulitzer Committee) for his ability to take a book about a historical figure and make it as readable and enjoyable as a novel. In my humble and questionably wise

opinion, he has mastered Aristotle's concept of thinking like a wise man while writing like

the common man.

 

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