Category Archives: writing

Brevity is the soul of communication

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(First draft 238 words.  Edited version 164.  Final version 140. Give me a week, and I can get it down to 130.)

brevity

photo by Erich Stüssi

Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” Wit, here, refers to intelligence. As a writer, I couldn’t agree more. You have to be smart to say what you mean and say it concisely.  Many people don’t even know what they mean. They are too busy to think about it. Thinking requires stillness and reflection. So does writing. That’s why people hire me.

Still, when they see the words I create, the first inclination is to add more GLUT.  They are terrified of leaving out something important, so they stuff a brochure like a Thanksgiving turkey. Or they assume that more words—big words—make them look smart.

Our world is noisy and cluttered. People crave simplicity.

So here’s your challenge. Finish your draft, and then cut 1/3 of it. Then cut more.

Watch your message rise to the surface.

Shakespeare wrote, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” said Polonius in Hamlet. The word “wit”  Wit can, of course, mean refers to both humor, of course, which Shakespeare may have meant to convey on one level. But “wit” , but it is also refers to and intelligence. Now that I’ve spent a number of years writing copy for a wide variety of clients and even for myself, After writing copy for a number of years As a writer, I see the truth of Shakespeare’s words. realize the truth of this statement all the more. You have to be smart to say what you mean and say it concisely. Honestly, Most people don’t even know what they mean. They are too busy to think about it. Thinking requires stillness and reflection. So does writing. So they hire me for that part to listen and then put their thoughts to words. Still, when they see the words, the first inclination is to   They haven’t really processed their thoughts it. More often than not, my clients have a tendency to want to The tendency of most clients is to add more STUFF versus delete. They are so afraid that they are not going to get this fact or that message into the mix. They are so afraid they are going to leave outare terrified of leaving out something important, so they  that they end up stuffing a try to stuff a small, trifold brochure like a Thanksgiving turkey. Or they assume that more words, especially big words, make them look smarter.  for Thanksgiving. With all the noise in our world today, Our world is noisy and cluttered. people want you to simplify things for them.  People crave simplicity. They may be willing to stay with you if you are writing a leisure-reading novel, but if you are writing something to convey information quickly and simply, less if definitely more.  So here’s your challenge. Finish your draft, and then challenge yourself to go back and cut 1/3 of the copy.  Then cut 10 more words. See if the message you want to convey doesn’t Watch your message rise to the surface. fore.

Think Small

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Have you been dreaming about something you would like to do? Do you think it might never happen?  Take some encouragement from writer Leigh McLeroy.  Dream big. Act small.  If you need a little kick in the pants, read her post here.

Wednesday words from Leigh.

It’s the art, stupid

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Musician

Musician Isaac Johnson. Photo by Barry Johnson

Artists live in two worlds. In one, they create. In the other, they market. The two could not be more opposite. One requires time, reflection, and solitude. The other requires diving into the fray to network, shake hands, blog, tweet, build a digital empire and land that ultimate publishing or record deal. In such chaotic noise, it is very easy to forget two essentials: 1) The art itself.  2) Your audience.  Without your craft or the people who appreciate its value, the rest is meaningless.

Bob Lefsetz, blogger and music industry analyst/commentator, recently addressed the 20% drop in ticket sales in the movie industry, despite predictions that movies were considered recession proof.

His take as to the cause? Simple. “The movies suck.”  Lefsetz argues that the movie industry has forgotten its “primary mission”—which is to tell stories. He goes on:

Every few years a blockbuster emerges from the fringe that costs almost nothing to produce.  And the real reason these flicks triumph is story…People need food.  They don’t need movies or music.  They can keep their wallets closed.  The challenge is to create something so compelling that people need to go, price ends up being secondary. Read his entire post here. I highly recommend it.

Lefsetz is right. Put your freshest energy into the story, the song, or the painting. Make it compelling. Make it something people have to see or hear or participate in. You do have to network, but begin by networking among those who already love and appreciate what you do.  Build slowly and be patient with the process. It is an exercise in trust.

Firing Up Your Imagination

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firewoodWhat do you do to fuel your imagination? Author Eugene Petersen says that imagination is a playground for faith, so it is vital to our well being. But it is also our most under-developed faculty. In a multi-media world, Petersen says “we let others do the imagining for us.”

Last night, as I watched the Superbowl with friends, I noticed that every upcoming movie ad was big on testosterone, special effects, explosions, and boobs.  There was zero evidence of a good story in any of them. I couldn’t help but think of what Petersen said: We let others do the imagining for us.  Even worse is the fact that too many of the “others” in and around Hollywood are simply not very imaginative.

Are we fueling our creative “mind muscles” with Twinkies and Krispy Kreme donuts? There’s not an creative vitamin or mineral to be found in so much of what we see.  When I think of how much more wonder and imagination is instilled in me when I read a book, I start to ask, “What else could I do to stimulate my imagination?”

Any suggestions?  What do YOU do?

Telling the Truth

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Dr. KingI must confess that I am not afraid of the word ‘tension.’ I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth.”  Dr. Martin Luther King wrote these words in his now-famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

If there is anything that can stir up tension, it is the truth—especially when presented in humility. Hemingway said that a writer’s job is to “tell the truth.” I don’t know about you but I find that to be a daunting charge.  The truth?  Do I even know the truth?

Read the rest of this post here