Saturday, July 4, 2009

It Really Is That Simple

A line from a book I read this morning caught my eye. It said, "in all things seek simplicity." My initial thoughts revolved around applying this concept to my life; not buying and filling my home with lots of unnecessary "stuff," having dinner at home each night with my family, taking time to enjoy my garden...

But then I also realized this is a great mantra for writers.
In all things seek simplicity

As the director of Northern Colorado Writers, I get lots of questions and comments from people that can be answered with one simple phrase: Just Write.

I have always wanted to be a writer, but I have no idea how to get started.
Just Write

I started a novel and I am not sure where the story is going.
Just Write

I have this great story idea about this boy who has this dream....
Just Write

Think about it. It really is that simple. To be a successful writer you just have to write. Every bestselling author and award winning journalist does exactly that--they write. There is no other way around it.

I also thought about how to apply this idea to our actual writing. For the most part, it is good to remember that simple is better. I think this is especially true when it comes to description. At times, we can go a little overboard and try to fit in as much as we can. All in the name of helping the reader recreate the picture we have in our mind. For example:

"Thirteen-year-old Mackenzie's brown, curly, shoulder-length hair, framed her oval face, showing the intensity of her green eyes as she frantically searched through her 12"x12" blue and white striped nylon school bag."

Is it really necessary to have all this description? Does it really matter if the reader pictures a purple bag instead of a blue and white striped one? How about just saying, Mackenzie ransacked her school bag.

Stephen King, in his memoir, On Writing, says this: "The key to good description begins with clear seeing and ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary."

Basically, In all things seek simplicity

I know first hand the life of a writer has challenges. I am not here to dispute that. But I wonder if we make the problems bigger and more complicated than they really are. If we go back to the mantra, I bet we can find simple solutions

The plot to my story is boring--
Let go of the excess and in order to get to the to core of the story

An editor has not responded to a query I sent two months ago--Call to check on the status.

My life is too busy now to write-
Find one thing you can let go of in order to have time to write

So what can you do to simplify your writing or your life as a writer?



2 Teach The Teacher said...

It's funny that you're saying this about writing. "Just write" is exactly what I need to do. It's so easy to talk myself out of doing something, whether it's cleaning out a closet, exercising, or writing. I can sit here and mentally struggle with what to write about, how to start, what direction to take, but if all I do is sit and think about it, I'm not writing. Nathalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones focuses on just that. If I just sit and write and make myself do it, whether I have anything to write about or not, eventually the process will work itself out and something of value will begin to seep into my writing. It's funny how I know this, but don't do it.

Betsy Ashton said...

I agree that a cluttered desk, house or mind make it difficult to think clearly and simply. I make it a habit to clean out and "de-stuff" one drawer, closet, cupboard or bookshelf every weekend. Some things go to the dump, some are recycled, some go to the consignment shop and yet others are donated. And while I'm de-stuffing something, my mind chugs along in neutral. When I'm done, I sit down and crank out pages. Ideas that have been lying idle flow forth. Characters speak, adverbs abound (they are dealt with later) and occasionally purple prose escapes. What the heck? It's a draft and I can put anything in it I want.

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