A wonderfully illustrative essay by Dick Cass, one of my former MFA mentors. It touches on a man’s inhibited emotions as he deals with the fear of loss. Take a moment to read.
Wordiness is ubiquitous. It appears in emails, Facebook status updates, blogs, memos, newsletters, bulletins, tabloids, signage, packaging … I am sure you get the picture. It is often a result of not mastering the language, not taking the time or knowing how to wordsmith, not knowing the true definitions of words. It comes from our K-12 education in which our English teachers encouraged us to dress up our otherwise simplified and direct prose with flowery language and ornamentation. Make it colorful. Make it dramatic. Make it superficial!
I don’t blame the perpetuators of wordiness for their origins, but I do wonder if they ever consider how it reflects on their being. I’m not exactly going existential here, though a parallel could be drawn by anyone insisting on that level of depth. Your self, my self, the collective self of the population at large, is reflected in everything we do and say, essential to our personalities and the personae we are perceived by.
The careless overuse of words, particularly descriptive and melodramatic language, creates a persona comprising a lack of concision, blurred clarity, a deficit of directness, and unnecessary complexity. I am intentionally going way over the top with wordiness as I espouse this idealized concept I just created on the fly earlier this morning. Or, simply put, I was intentionally wordy in my adoption of this new concept to illustrate the point. One’s true character is mired by these complexities much like viewing their aura through a kaleidoscope and not the naked third eye. Exhausted yet?
An exercise in extreme anti-wordiness
I recently wrote a short story using no descriptive language – no adjectives, no adverbs, no dialogue, though a rare exception was permitted for describing time transitions – as an exercise for my MFA writing workshop. It forced me to consider how I would convey mood, environment, and appearance through carefully selected nouns and verbs. Each meticulously selected word took on a new power and stronger meaning. After I shared it with my workshop group, I learned from their feedback that I had crafted an effective suspenseful and vivid story with zero descriptions. It was a worthwhile challenge that I will employ regularly moving forward.
I urge anyone battling their wordiness demons to try this exercise too. You will find your true self in the process.
Please share your thoughts on this below. I am always interested in what others think.
My recent review of William Zinnser’s On Writing Well appears on the Anne W Associates blog. I enjoyed this book immensely; it has opened up a new perspective in how I approach writing.
I must be insane choosing to write this post with my iPhone. Blame it on overtiredness – it is almost 1AM, afterall – and I don’t know what surprises lie ahead with the wonders of autocorrect and a very small touchscreen keyboard. I like to challenge myself, even on the most mundane level, though it tends to be more masochism than sensing accomplishment. I suppose if I were anyone else, I would be a self-loathing monk flogging away nightly in a remote monastery atop a 1,000-foot cliff overlooking the beautiful Mediteranean seaside city below, always out of reach yet so enchanting.
So this brings me to where I find myself now. I have overcome a major hurdle in my life, pursuing a masters degree, and most importantly, in writing. Last night I completed my first week at the WestConn MFA Writing residency, I knew from the first few minutes in my first workshop with the talented author Dan Pope that I had indeed found my new home. Actually, my old home surrounded by talented, uninhibited artists from all walks of life – a critical facet missing from my personae since… I don’t know when. This group of students and mentors, made up of many established professionals and some younger aspiring creatives, welcomed us new students as if we were never strangers. The talent this group exudes is mind-blowing, to use one of my overused cliches, and I am proud to now be affiliated with them.
So enough gushing for tonight, I need to be able to sleep without the feeling of having turned into the “sensitive male” that I despised so much in the 90s. Not that I have a problem with guys showing emotion, I have a stoic reputation to maintain (really?), and those sensitive male types need to get over their self-pitying watery-eyed selves.
I have no idea where I am going with this and I am too tired to review and edit. Probably a total waste of a post riddled with errors and nonsense considering I consider myself a writer, I forget what I said, I think. I wonder if my surreal lucid state kicked in during any of this? That said, good night world, time to start the real writing in the morning.