If you don't like oatmeal, you're likely to say it's because of the consistency. Granted, gray mash slopped in a bowl isn't the most appealing food to wake up to, but it's also probably not the consistency you dislike. When people use the word "consistency" in this way, what they usually mean is actually "texture."
Consistency refers to compatibility among parts of a whole. Given this definition, oatmeal (properly cooked) is very consistent, with a basic taste and texture that holds throughout each batch. It's this texture most people dislike, but the consistency is much harder to criticize.
In writing, consistency is much more rare. This is especially apparent in the work of beginners, who tend to get tired after the first paragraph and lose their way. Even veterans struggle with this, often starting with a great idea and getting sidetracked later on, or simply losing interest.
Why is it so hard to write consistently well? The main reason is that it requires diligence. It takes effort to craft good sentence after good sentence, to pay close attention to elaborating a thought or idea for many pages, to proceed from Point A to Point B without stumbling off on tangents or simply curling up on the road long before you reach your destination.
The best way to avoid inconsistency is to have a clear purpose and write as clearly as possible. This sounds pretty simple, but it's easier said than done. It requires one to find and maintain a voice, to stay focused, and to avoid moving between extremes (going from short sentences to long ones, describing objects in detail then neglecting to describe them at all, etc.). Yet anyone who's been trained and has practiced can achieve consistent writing.
Like all aspects of the writing process, learning to maintain consistency requires extended effort, but it's out of no one's reach. It's one of the distinguishing marks of a good writer and a good thinker, and while it doesn't mean making everything bland and similar, it does mean making it easy to read and uniform. Without these, your writing will be ineffective; with them, your writing will be strong, meaningful, and hard to put down.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur.Read more of his reviews here.
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