“But it is well written.” These five words follow a critical comment such as, “The characters were thin and the plot was a cliché.” Then comes the line, perhaps after a frown, “But it was well written.” An unwatchable two hours of wretched film-making – but so well written!
People think of “the writing” itself as a distinct element of a work of art – as if writing were a separate line-item like set design or catering. This tendency is the product of our age of specialization. There is one team responsible for programming, another team for historical accuracy, a nutritionist, of course – oh, and writers.
The writing, however, cannot be separated from the rest of the production. There can be no excellent writing if the people come off as cardboard and the plot makes no sense. How can dialogue be praiseworthy if spoken by characters who are not believable – or if not representative of an idea or force that is relevant to the production’s purpose? Writing serves the artist's concept and shapes it. Writing cannot be extracted from it and examined separately any more than milk can be taken out of a hot latte.
The same holds in business – and in life. Words are actions and actions speak as if with words. There is no “We shall never surrender” without Churchill the wartime leader embodying a policy of national defiance. There is no “Just do it” without the flashy shoes and the mystique of champions. The words “You are under arrest” come inextricably linked to the act of cuffing a suspect.
In the day-to-day life of business we come across examples of polished, picked-over prose… found in a piece of communication that has no definable purpose. Can a press release that has no strategic reason for being and no defined audience be well written? Only if you could deem a sauce spectacular if served on a plate with nothing to go with it.
Writing is the expression of a project and the project itself, the idea as well as the means for conveying the idea. Writing is not a removable part of something. It is the something.