Thoughts from “On Writing Well”

#insights   #tips  

Fact: the book On Writing Well by William Zinsser is simply stellar. His advice on writing is insightful and succinct. In addition, his thoughts on writing spill into other areas of life.

Here’s two thoughts I found relevant to design:

Designing is Not a Contest

Every writer is starting from a different point and is bound for a different destination. Yet many writers are paralyzed by the thought that they are competing with everybody else who is trying to write and presumably doing better.

This feeling of competition is often fostered in designers who see the work of associates being displayed in galleries while their own work gets no recognition.

Forget everyone else and go at your own pace. Nobody else is solving the exact design problem you are. Your problem is unique; hence your solution should be too. Your only contest is with yourself.

Just Get Rid of It

Have you ever tried adding a design element only to find it extremely frustrating to do so? You put the element through all kinds of exertions: you move it to various locations, you resize and reform its structure, you change its colors, you add supporting elements in hopes of clarify its purpose, only to find the overall design worse than where you started?

Zinsser says writers often encounter a similar impasse in constructing sentences. The solution? Get rid of the problem element. Unfortunately, this is usually our solution of last resort:

look at the troublesome element and ask, “do I need it at all?” Probably you don’t. It was trying to do an unnecessary job all along - thats why it was giving you so much grief. Remove it and watch the afflicted sentence spring to life and breathe normally. It’s the quickest cure and often the best.

Sometimes, the best solution is to get rid of the design element you’re trying so hard to include.