The mark of good writing is its deep respect for the reader and its simultaneous self-modesty. Alas, as all aspiring and accomplished writers know, this high calling is dreadfully elusive. The reader is cruelly forced to accept dozens upon dozens of unnecessary words and made to listen to meaningless, rambling sentences whose sole purpose seems to be to aggrandize the writer, suggesting a picture of a chef crafting a beautiful dish that can’t be eaten.
This idea of writing being written for the reader was first introduced to me by Will Strunk in his wonderful “little” book, The Elements of Style. E. B. White, (Elwyn Brooks, by the way,) who later edited the “little” book, was himself quite sympathetic to the reader. He wrote carefully and it made his writing genius. Why else would anyone read a 280-page tome about a misfit living in the backwoods of Maine, tending to pigs?
G. K. Chesterton, (Gilbert Keith, by the way,) was not as careful, and there are scores of red-eyed, word-weary readers to prove it. But, he was a genius, and so he got away with it. His observations strike you as the sort of thing you would never have thought of in a million years, and it is a pleasant, tickling sensation, as if you were just expertly fast-forwarded through leagues of drab and dangerous learning in six pages of shining text. Maybe there is economy at work here after all.
C. S. Lewis, (Clive Staples, by the way,) wrote with energy and humor, making his writing very human and sometimes downright personable. To be personable without being chummy is genius, no two ways about it, and to keep the reader happily anticipating a joke coming around the corner at any moment is no light task either: it requires a good nose, because (as he would say,) "the smell of frying food is very different before and after breakfast."
I don't yet know much about N. T. Wright, but his Simply Christian is laying on my desk and you should know that his name is Nicholas Thomas.
The act of writing should be neither painful nor easy, as both make for terrible reading. Writing well should require skill, effort, and persistence, while remaining as natural and fluid as possible: like a precisely thrown pitch or a deftly drawn line. One word of caution: precisely thrown pitches, and deftly drawn lines, are rarely straight.