Writing is thinking, and if you don’t think clearly about what you want to say, what story you want to tell, you will never write clearly about it. Clarity - of thought, of purpose, of expression - is the cardinal virtue of good writing, and it shines abundantly through everything Lincoln says and does in the movie. Writing is not just what happens at a desk. It happens everywhere and always, whenever your mind encounters a thought it wants to wrap words around.
I have a mantra in class: “Readers do no work.” If you’re James Joyce or Toni Morrison or any other writer lavishly blessed with the gifts of linguistic prestidigitation, you can presume that your readers signed up for the ride, expecting that some heavy lifting might be required of them.
Most of us, though - and all of us in the realms of nonfiction and journalism - cannot presume that. It is for us to do the work first, so that none is required of our readers. Clear thinking leads to clear writing, which leads, most importantly, to clear understanding.My own classroom mantra through 40 years of teaching was: "The writer's job is to make the reader's job effortless." Coyne's is briefer.