Writing isn’t just telling a story. It isn’t just creating a character, a plot, a resolution. It’s about the pursuit of perfect language.
The best lesson I ever learned was that to be a writer you must first love language. Not what you piece together and say is beautiful, but rather I’ll quote Samuel Coleridge on his definition of poetry, “the perfect words in the prefect order.”
This should be the pursuit of every writer. And though the quote is defining poetry, I believe it still should be our goal in fiction or even nonfiction.
My philosophy on writing has changed a lot over the years, from believing that my writing was for myself and you just didn’t get my point to pursuing language and the beauty thereof not for myself but for the relationship between the art, the artist, and the audience.
Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg is hands down the best best book on writing I’ve come across. And I love so much of his philosophy on writing that I wish I could quote the whole book.
Here are a few quotes that I hope will inspire you to pick up the book yourself.
“These assumptions and prohibitions and obligations are the imprint of your education and the culture you live in. Distrust them.”
“But long sentences often tend to collapse or break down or become opaque or trip over their awkwardness…Strong, lengthy sentences are really just strong, short sentence joined together in various ways.”
“Most of the sentences you make will need to be killed.”
“Do you remember feeling, when you were writing a paper for school, that your vocabulary was steadily shrinking?…That’s a symptom of boredom…you were repeatedly asked to persuade or demonstrate or argue, to reiterate or prove or recite or exemplify, to go through the motions of writing. You were almost never asked to notice or observe, witness or testify.”
“Paying attention to the decisions embedded in each sentence.”
“Volunteer sentences occur because you’re not considering the actual sentences you’re making. You’re looking past it toward your meaning somewhere down the road.”