Clarity in Writing

Carol RoachStarred Page By Carol Roach, 30th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Personal Experiences

I wrote this article as part of the requirement for a wonderful online course I took called "42daysofwriting." This course taught us how to write in the flow of consciousness genre letting my ideas flow on paper without reservation.


This is the third and last piece that I wrote for the 42daysofwriting course on clarity. I hope you enjoy it. It gives me great pleasure when readers say they love my work and they can relate to it.

Peeking through the cobwebs

I often wondered what people meant when they said they did not understand and then all of a sudden a light bulb went off in their head. I could understand personal insight because it came from deep within me.

But for the life of me, if someone, a teacher, or a friend was explaining something to me and I didn't understand, chances are unless they were able to break it down, simplify it, or present it in a totally new fashion, I still would not understand.

No light bulb in my head ever went off. In fact it was more like cobwebs clustered in my head. I could see through the spaces in between the cobwebs and perhaps catch on to some of the concepts but my view was still cloudy and I felt like I was hanging on by a thread.

The more I did not understand, the more uncomfortable I felt. I found over time that my lack of understanding made many of my teachers uncomfortable as well. What these teachers did not realize was that explaining the concept over again in exactly the same way was not helping me.

It was not that I was missing points here and there. I was sometimes lost from the beginning. These teachers felt that going over the same points would be like putting pieces of the missing puzzle together and suddenly the light bulb would go off and the puzzle was solved. It did not work. I couldn't understand the puzzle pieces let alone put the puzzle together.

Many times a student would volunteer an answer much to the relief of the teacher and that was the missing piece I needed to clarify the situation. Other times, the teacher would simply say to me, "we have to move on, come see me after class."

The screwdriver

From this experience I learned to ask questions in such a way that I would get the answers to what was blocking my comprehension. For example, if I am in a carpentry class and the teacher says take this screwdriver and pick this screw then go to work, and I don't understand, repeating the same thing to me is not going to make me understand any better. After all I don't have a hearing problem. I heard what was said. I am just confused on how to do it. Showing me the screwdriver and which screw is necessary still may not be the problem. I know what a screwdriver looks like and I know what a screw looks like. My problem is the application.

Now that I have these tools what do I do with them? If the teacher then says you take the screw and screw it into the fixture, it still may not cut it. I found that I had to ask the very specific questions, "How do I screw, what is the action, how do I hold the screwdriver, or which way does the screw rotate?" You would be surprised how many teachers did not understand what I could not understand at all.

The more skillful teachers caught on right away, if it was a technical issue they took me back to the basics and if it was a conceptual issue they explained using examples analogies and metaphors, until finally one of their explanations made sense to me.

It was only when I reached university I found out I have a learning disability. My left brain functioning is above average but my right brain functioning is under developed. Math for example has always been a major challenge for me. Like many learning disabled individuals, I understand to a certain point and then I reached a ceiling. At that point, no matter how hard the teacher tries, he/she cannot blow the cobwebs away.

Understanding psychology statistics

Taking a psychology degree was a big concern for me. I knew that I would have trouble with the statistics. Again, like every learning disabled individual, who makes it to that level and beyond, we learn coping skills. Our brain doesn't function in quite the same way as an average person, so we find ways to make our brain understand.

I remember sitting in a stats class while the professor was explaining a long formula on the board. He was so confident in his explanation. However, I was totally lost. It all looked Chinese to me; or more to the point; Greek. I knew then and there I could not ask this man for clarification. There was no way he would be able to explain in a way that would register in my brain.

In order to make the formula clear for me, I took the elements of what I knew to help me decipher how he got to the conclusion. The result of this exercise was my own statistic formula; which did not make sense to any other person on the face of this earth. All that mattered was that it made sense to me, and I passed the course.

My clarity

I transferred this skill to explaining situations to others and to my writing. I use analogies, a technique used by the great Dr. Milton Erickson. I use metaphors as well.
I found when I was interning at the mental hospital it worked with some of my clients.

For example, I would take a situation where they were having a social conflict and bring them back to one of their personal situations. Having them feel the impact that situation had upon them in many cases help them to empathize with other people.

My friends love my metaphors. My friend Anita, will often remind me of the time when we were discussing how unlucky we were when it came to finding men, and I replied "Yep we are about as lucky as two alley cats scrounging for food only to find the garbage truck already passed by." Not only did the metaphor provoke laughter it made the point more salient.

If I am talking about an abstract concept such as "how big is my love", the use of metaphors clarifies my writing; making my words more visible, and tangible.
"My love is as big as the deep blue sea, as big as earth and all its celestial bodies." Now that is a type of clarity that I can understand.

All photos taken from the public domain

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Clarity, Clarity In Writing, Clear And Concise Writing, Using Analogies, Using Metaphors, Writing Clearly

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar spirited
31st Mar 2015 (#)

Your article is written with great clarity though.

Perhaps you write that way because of the problem you mentioned above.

At least you found out what the problem was.

I have never been able to study anything. Nothing much stays in my head. Every time I drive somewhere it's like a new drive. I have to explicitly follow directions, or I get lost.

I enjoyed your sharing here Carol, thanks.

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author avatar Carol Roach
31st Mar 2015 (#)

me too, I have no spacial awareness and I can get lost really easily

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