Writing nonfiction material provides an excellent vehicle for learning. Since one of the purposes of existing on this planet is to learn new information and to apply it appropriately, writing is a useful tool. Conveying new knowledge is not only helpful to our own well-being, but to those who share our struggle to find personal meaning through the process of problem-solving difficult issues. Life is a series of problems to be solved, and writing is a gift that gives us the opportunity to examine life unreservedly.
The process of writing nonfiction is not merely about making sure our story is accurate, but conveying new knowledge about a subject that leaves the reader open to new ways of perceiving problems. Writing with a sense of integrity requires that we possess an unreserved opening to the truth wherever it may be found. We leave our preconceived notions about the nature of life and how it ought to be on the shelf before we pick up our pen. This approach requires the utmost in discipline.
Good writers of nonfiction can think multi-dimensionally. This means that writers can observe problems from a multitude of perspectives in the process of conveying various ideas to readers. Some information may be clear-cut in its interpretation and significance, but many issues may require holding various opposing thoughts in a state of tension. Simplistic information and answers is not good enough for most astute readers. They demand a depth of content from the writer.
Much of what I read is not well thought out. It tends to be shallow, rigid and lacks the depth which comes from wrestling with new information and ideas over time. These are the nonfiction writers who believe that most people want a quick fix. They present their information in a neat and orderly fashion with little substance or depth. In essence, they talk down to their audience. Their “talking points” are one-dimensional and do not present their readers will new and challenging ways of viewing the world.
The primary goal of nonfiction writing is to present the reader with new information that is time-tested and leaves the reader with a renewed sense of curiosity over the topic. The reader should come away from the experience with a open-ended sense of “wondering.” The information should make the reader want to explore a given topic in greater detail. The reader should have developed a sense of passion about pursuing the issue further. The writer conveys the information in a way that stirs-up the reader to question and ponder the complexity of any issue. One sign that this is happening is when readers underline various passages and write notes in the corners of a chapter or article. Readers may indicate that they have read the manuscript or article several times in order to digest it.
Nonfiction writers present information that has the capacity to change people since words are powerful. Good nonfiction writing should have an emotional impact on the reader. As a writer, you want to believe that your audience will never be the same because of what you have disclosed. It is a quality of good writers that they are able to make emotional contact with their readers. Readers come away from the experience feeling a sense of well-being, perplexity, or desire to pursue the topic with increased passion. Nonfiction writers have a deep sense of responsibility for providing their audience with the best available information, ways of connecting with that information, and a desire for their audience to search the subject more comprehensively.
James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC is an author, freelance writer, licensed professional counselor and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona. He specializes in working with children and adults who experience anxiety, depression, grief and pain management issues. His latest book, Troubled Childhood, Triumphant Life: Healing from the Battle Scars of Youth (New Horizon Press) is now available. James can be reached through his website at www.scottsdaletherapy.net.