Oliver Burkeman 在 How to make writing less hard 提到,高质量的写作是 “把东西指给别人看”。写作本身不是自然进化过程中的一部分,所以许多人觉得写作非常困难。如果把写作比成人猿和猴子都会做的事情它就简单多了——

As Steven Pinker notes in his book The Sense of Style, writing is cognitively unnatural: it’s such a new way of communicating, on the timescale of human evolution, that it’s little wonder we struggle. So it helps to approach it by means of an analogy with something we did evolve to do. Quoting the academics Francis-Noël Thomas and Mark Turner, Pinker suggests approaching writing as if you were pointing something in the environment out to another person – something that she would notice for herself, if only she knew where to look. Imagine directing someone’s gaze across a valley, to a specific house on the other side. “You should pretend,” writes Pinker, “that you, the writer, see something in the world that’s interesting, and that you’re directing the attention of your reader to that thing.” He calls this the “joint attention” strategy.

Which sounds obvious, except that it makes immediately clear how many writers are doing something else. Academics are often more focused on showing off their knowledge, or their membership in an exclusive circle (or in Butler’s case, trying to create an “aura of importance”, in Martha Nussbaum’s view.) Journalists are often trying to inflame your anger, or rally support for some cause.

Using the “joint attention” strategy makes it easier to see which details are essential and which aren’t – and it helps you tread the narrow path between patronizing your reader and providing them with insufficient information. It’s not that they’re stupid and you’re enlightening them, but nor are they already inside your head. So you have to show them what you’ve noticed. Look, over there: can you see?