Get on the Plane

“Decide what you want to do. Then decide to do it. Then do it” (Zinsser, 280)

This is a constant struggle for me. One of these pieces gets left out and the whole thing falls apart. I was inspired today by Zinsser’s approach to “Get on the plane” (Zinsser, 280). No matter what. He had no plan. He had no preconceived notions. He was nervous. But he still got on the plane. That may not look so literal in my life, but it was a reminder to take risks and not be afraid of the unknowns in my writing.

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. The first chapter we read for today was called “Leads and Endings.” Zinsser focused on the lead first, reminding the writer that the lead must draw the reader in so they want to read more. If they stop after the first few sentences, we have failed. But, if each sentence builds on the last with some elements of surprise, the reader will be so invested they can’t stop. They will have questions they want answered. They will want to know the end of the story. “Readers want to know–very soon– what’s in it for them” (Zinsser, 55). We live in a society like that. People want to know what’s in it for them. So our writing is no different. We have to give readers a reason to spend their precious time and energy on what we have to say.

The next chapter, called Humor, was a struggle for me to read. His examples were helpful. What he said made sense. But, I do not see myself as a typically humorous person or writer. “The writer must find some comic device–satire, parody, irony, lampoon, nonsense–that he can use to disguise his serious point” (Zinsser, 208). But none of these styles describe me. I do not use satire or irony or nonsense in my speaking or in my writing. I feel as though if I tried, it would seem extremely forced and I would, therefore, fail the task at hand. Zinsser never seemed to address the people who are not humorous naturally, so I would love to ask him how he sees those people using humor effectively in their writing?

“Business Writing: Writing in your Job,” should be required reading for every businessperson, educator, engineer, etc. It was not until I read this chapter that I realized how much jargon our businesses and schools are filled with. Why can’t we just use straightforward, simple language? Because that would mean taking the risk of sounding normal, uneducated, real. Are those things bad? Well, the CEO of a major company may have a different answer than me to that question. “Whoever they are, they tend to be so afraid of writing that their sentences lack all humanity–and so do their institutions” (Zinsser, 166).

Lastly, as I began the post, we read “A Writer’s Decisions,” in which Zinsser used his own personal writing and experiences to inspire us as writers to “get on the plane.” He does not want us to miss an opportunity for great writing because of fear of the unknowns or the doubts. He wrote about using simple sentences, and establishing a personality and voice. But what will stick with me is how he ended, by encouraging us to never miss an opportunity. Sometimes it may mean taking a risk, wasting some money or time, but it will be worth it. When you hear a musician introduce Jazz music to China at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music or travel to Venice to hear them play in St. Mark’s basilica when no one else was there, it will be worth it. But first, you must take the risk.

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