The Inevitability of Writing

“The maker’s eye moves back and forth from word to phrase to sentence to paragraph to sentence to phrase to word. The maker’s eye sees the need for variety and balance, for a firmer structure, for a more appropriate form. It peers into the interior of the paragraph, looking for coherence, unity, and emphasis, which make meaning clear.” (Murray, pg. 30)

In the passage, “The Maker’s Eye: Revising Your Own Manuscripts”, Donald Murray describes his own writing process and brings insight into the general writer’s process with examples.  His emphasis is on revision and gauging when to look for completeness in your work.  The above quote is where the title comes from because “the maker’s eye” is what he believes to be the determining factor for quality revision.

I will be choosing “moves/movement” as my specific verb because it is referential to the eye but also to the overall process of writing and revision.  “Move” has a few different definitions, whether it’s a physical action (eyes), a metaphorical action (progression in writing), or a philosophical action (time).

Murray goes so far as to imply that a work without revision is “amateur”.  A major issue in writing for academics is that many assignments are “one and done”, but that mentality stunts the development of writing skills.  Serious papers and essays are not static documents but rather ever-changing and evolving, subject to feedback and criticism.  Studies must be peer-reviewed, and theses must be defended to gain credibility, so it would be foolish to not hold other writing to that expectation.

To support your work, Murray says that you must find your information with supporting meaning and then read it to see if it makes sense.  This also includes the principle of knowing if your work is interesting or engaging to the audience.  Writing is an unselfish process, it is more about the satisfaction of the readers rather than the author.  Form, structure, development, and dimension are also part of the criteria to understand if the information conveyed is appropriate and specific enough.  Before moving to the latter stages, Murray has a few remarks about the author’s voice.  He notes that it’s important to see your work as a new reader because it’s not enough to leave subtext or an underlying emotion without actually pointing to it.  The author usually doesn’t have the benefit of explaining what they really meant to every individual reader.  This is not unlike how song lyrics can get misunderstood.  He then outlines the elements of coherence, unity, and emphasis as the final goals.

Murray makes it clear that he believes that revision is inseparable from the actual writing process, that writing can’t be accomplished without it.  He describes the mentality that one must have when approaching revision.  He believes that most writers have an issue with being paralyzed with self-doubt and being unable to move forward.  A conclusion that he reached is when one must learn to seek out and emphasize the good parts of the work.  Some writers work in a different way, doing revision while writing.  I certainly find it easier to work this way from paragraph to paragraph, though it’s important to realize if your work has good flow between ideas.

At a certain point, you must choose a time to finish rather than revise to no end.  If you never finish writing, if you never choose a place to end, then nobody will ever get to read it.  Murray uses the flow of time in a clever way to end the article, “A piece of writing is never finished. It is delivered to a deadline, torn out of the typewriter on demand, sent off with a sense of accomplishment and shame and pride and frustration. If only there were a couple more days, time for just another run at it, perhaps then …”.  Leaving a thought unfinished is an emphasis on the reality of our physical world.

3 thoughts on “The Inevitability of Writing

  1. I love your choice of “move” here and the multiple meanings and relevance it has to writing and revising! Very creative and intellectually useful to use a word that way to think about a concept from multiple perspectives.

    You write, “Writing is an unselfish process, it is more about the satisfaction of the readers rather than the author.” Do you think this is always true? Can you imagine times or audiences where you do need to be a little selfish, where you might not want to satisfy them? I don’t think you are wrong here, but I thought I would push back in a friendly way here. No need to respond, something to think about.

    • Thanks for the feedback, there are definitely times when writers are writing for themselves. What comes to mind in the cases with an audience are poetry or song lyrics, though it doesn’t have to be restricted to only that.

  2. I really like your verb of choice “move”. As well as all the different definitions you give for it, and the way you associate each one of them with the process of revision. I found your perspective of how “The Maker’s eye” “moves” while reading really interesting, is probably an angle I wouldn’t have noticed myself without reading your work. Your writing is really good overall, and I find your choice of words ample and adequate.

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