Writer A was a professional editor. He could assemble sentences and paragraphs, cut redundant or wordy passages, and knew what a well-constructed essay, article or story should be. Therefore, how could someone so knowledgeable and experienced have problems with his craft?
I didn’t realize Writer A had major struggles with his own writing until he asked me to critique several of his long essays. Because he was my mentor and friend, I already knew he read dozens of books every month, on science, art, literature, current events, and many other subjects. He was always full of thoughts and ideas, many of which he reported to me. When I began to critique his writing—perhaps 8 years after we met—I sensed a struggle behind his excellent prose and somewhat well-ordered ideas.
“It feels like you’re trying to stuff in everything you’ve ever read or thought about,” I told him. “It’s just too full of ideas, and therefore somewhat heavy going.”
“Yes,” he replied. “But the problem is, what you’re reading represents only about 2 percent of what’s in my head.”
That was when I realized what he was up against.