When discussing theory, there are many possible definitions, maybe so many there will never really be one set way to define it, kind of like genre. The definition that I was given is, “a theory is a system of ideas intended to explain things”. When theory pertains to writing however, the “system of ideas” can become quite large and complex. There are a ton of different qualifications that must be met before something can be considered a good piece of writing. I like to use the term “appropriate” writing because I believe that what is suited for one piece of writing is not always appropriate for another. Writing is contextual and cumulative, it has to paint a picture of the situation for which a piece is being written. In that picture there must be pictures, kind of like a slide show or flipbook. One person’s writing builds off of everything previous they have written and conceptualized in the past. Purpose and context are the two things I find most important when defining a great piece of writing.
The first idea of my theory of writing is always understand your purpose. Before you begin to write you have to know why you are writing and everything you hope to accomplish in that piece of writing. Of course these things should never limit you, often times in a good piece of writing these expectations will be far exceeded. Whether the writing is for academic, personal, promotional, conceptual, subliminal, general or whatever purpose it may be, you have to understand that before approaching the writing situation. It is important to have a driving force behind what you are writing and make sure that it shines through for your readers. Even if what you are writing is to yourself, when you write something one day for a specific purpose, you want to be able to return to it and have sight of what was intended to be perceived when you originally wrote it. The picture in your head should be maintained from the time the piece is written to the time you revisit that piece. The purpose of your writing is also more than just your choice of words, it’s the arrangement, placement, punctuation, it’s everything. When you take hold of the purpose behind your writing, the way you write will more accurately reflect the message you are trying to present. Your purpose doesn’t have to be something that blows minds or changes people’s perspectives; it may be something as simple as a quick reminder email to someone. Even in situations where you may think that stopping to evaluate your purpose for what you are writing is unimportant, taking the time to do so will always yield a better end result of your writing and a better understanding of it by the readers or recipients.
The next important aspect of my theory of writing is context, which goes right in line with purpose. In terms of writing, the definition of context by Google is, “the parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning.” Context is all about interpretation, situation and perspective. While writing, one must chose the context or contexts they want their readers to understand while evaluating their piece. Context must be established, especially when discussing something that could have many differing interpretations. Blanket statements and open-ended questions can sometimes add dramatic affect to one’s work, but only result in confusion if the appropriate context is not established. Many times a good writer will try and strike up controversy and questioning by making such statements, but this is usually done to reiterate and help readers further understand their purpose. That purpose however, will be unable to be recognized without proper context being explained. Context is also important to you as a writer before beginning your piece. You have to narrow your research or focus to maintain the bigger picture of your writing. If you are writing a research paper than you will probably spend more of your time filling in content with facts and research than focusing on the word choice or beauty of the piece. However, if you are writing a novel or short story, or even a love letter, the context of your writing should reflect more of passion and visual in addition to the elegance of the flow you have with your choice of words throughout your piece. Context is interpretation, especially as a reader. If your purpose and context were clear throughout your writing, then your readers will interpret the piece the way you intended.
The last thing I’ll say about approaching any given writing situation is know how to articulate your words in a way that is both detailed and concise. No one wants to read something that is all words and no understanding. Sometimes less is more but always know how to articulate your message in your writing through use of vocabulary, terminology, extended or prior knowledge, references, punctuation, but above all focus. Keep in mind your purpose and context(s) throughout your writing and you will be able to beautifully articulate the words that paint the picture of your piece.