I once had a professor that instructed us to use the word “damn” every time we were tempted to use “very.” It was to break us of the very/damn unfortunate habit of qualifying our words. True, it’s an lazy qualifier — yet, I think there are times when you need its simplicity and universality. Sometimes when I write I find myself grasping for the novel construction, the obscure word, the convoluted phrase. Does it serve my purpose any better as a writer? But, at the same time, I hesitate to squash myself into the Hemingway model. The same professor (truly one of my favorites) thought everyone should try for the terse, unembellished tone that characterized Ernest. When I try I sound terse it often comes out stilted – recently I had to write a blurb for a lecture I’m giving to the Knoxville Civil War Roundtable. Their publicist asked me to pad it, as I had done the “just the facts” version. The resulting revision was more feminine and less hard-edged — I guess I’ll find out how that plays with the audience on Feb. 12th.
What I’m trying to do is write my way through the dichotomy of the purple, well maybe lavender, prose that is my authentic voice and my conviction that the more spare the text the better. How do you juggle how you write and what you know? Is is very difficult?
Music that is DAMN satisfying: Vivaldi, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, “Venus,” the version by Southern Culture on the Skids, of course, Van Morrison — and for sheer virtuosity Stevie Ray Vaughn.
For today’s quote, I must confess, if I could only have 10 writers on a deserted island this unusual little man would have to be one! He can rarely be topped for pithy, insightful musings, for example: “If God created us in his own image, we have more than reciprocated.” –> Voltaire
I have always thought the Heming-way is the best way. Taking nothing away from Harper and Truman, I think “Old Man” is the great work of American literature. On the other hand, I’m always slightly jealous of other CW bloggers whose posts seem so much longer, and therefore more SUBSTANTIAL, than my own. But I guess the key is to write to your target. In the case of my blogging, ummm..that target would be me, so the choice is simple.
Hey, tell that “other blogger” to stop demurring and post something!
But then the question is: should your writing reflect you? I’m all for using the exact right word as opposed to 10 that skate around the topic, but does it matter whether the result sounds like you speaking or should your writing persona be a different character?
OK, put that way it sounds pro-Sybil — but you see my point?
He’s busy, busy, busy right now — but I’ll tell him 🙂