Challenging Writing and Active Voice

What writing addresses high stakes situations with straightforward clarity, today? Where do we find writing that seeks to serve the reader, to take them on a journey and to give them some valuable takeaway after the narrative is finished? When is writing is more of a boot camp than a roller coaster? What kinds of writing seek to transform a reader through stimulating intellectual growth? Some writing is purposefully difficult, and some writing is meant to be easily consumed. Some writing acts as a prompt, as a call to action for the reader. Other writing is like a roller coaster offering us a way to pass the time with maximal entertainment value for minimal effort.

Challenging writing asks the reader to be an active participant. It serves as an invitation to focus your intellect on thinking about a problem or an opportunity. In analyzing a situation, it maps out the potential and points the reader to possible paths of action. It asks you to imagine a world and to consider what kinds of problems you would face if you were living in that world. People join cross fit gyms to build up their physical strength and they read challenging writing to increase their mental strength.

Roller coaster writing is like so many things in our culture: it’s fun. A lot of our culture is designed to give us cheap thrills. Roller coaster writing seems like it’s covering a serious situation with high stakes, but in reality it is safe and is a disposable experience. We get the adrenaline rush without the reality. The only effort we make is in experiencing the ride. The roller coaster dominates our experience.

Challenging writing often practices active voice. Active voice situates us psychologically in a position of understanding and clarity. We are making up the world in our imaginations as we read. The text is a map that orients us and gives us direction. The journey is a kind of mental workout that builds strength and gives us a point of reference for future work. Writing that strives to create action in the reader generally uses the active voice for the sake of clarity and the impact of being straightforward.

Why try to draw a distinction between challenging and other writing? We have so many high stakes situations facing us today. Coming together to face and fix some of the problems we can actually solve will build some momentum in a direction we favor. If we want more social equity, then we need to think clearly, to analyze a plan, and to make decisions consistent with our values.

Great writing challenges us to be accountable for our thinking. It points to the things that we can change and draws out examples of what can be done. Challenging writing takes a defensible stand by earning whatever position it maintains. This writing uses the power of analysis to explain a point of view. Through explaining why something is important and how it has been formed, the value of the writing becomes self-evident. It teaches us something that we can replicate for ourselves.

We need challenging writing more now than ever so that we can face the problems of our current situation and begin to move from an increasingly chaotic situation to more equitable and socially stable dynamic. We need to appeal to those with resources to invest in ways that will benefit the community and increase the common good.

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