Let Go, Write Strong, Build Readership
You've seen it before. The burdened poem. A heavy-laden sentence. Blog posts that go on and on. Chapters that would have done well if they ended three pages ago.
We all create overstuffed writing sometimes, much to the chagrin (or boredom, frustration, and unhappy surprise) of our readers and editors. We want to hold on to all of our words, each of our sparkling thoughts or stories. But the poems, sentences, chapters, readers and editors of the world wish we'd simply let go.
I understand. I'm not immune. What to do? Here are 5 things I try to remember, to help me let go and write strong:
1. Aim for arresting details, then trim those that don't add extra force to the text. Refrain from being too sad about this (see number 3 below); remember, this practice wins points with readers and editors.
2. Trust the reader. If details are strong, readers can catch the import without a lot of explanation and application talk. I dare say that religious writers are particularly remiss in this area, as they spend too much time overlaying the God-aspect in their stories, poems and posts. We don't need to say, "He redeemed the situation by His powerful hand," if we've made it crystal clear through redemptive details.
3. Save it for later. This is especially hard for the new author/blogger, eager to fill a book/blog post with everything she knows on a subject. Remember, there'll be other chances. For instance, this weekend I was tempted to add a section to my Hospitality chapter, on the sometimes inhospitable ways we practice communion in our churches. But the chapter was already pleased with itself. So I started a file called "God in the Yard Blog Posts" and sketched my idea for a future blog post (once the book comes out and I want to extend ideas through conversation).
4. Give ideas away. Sometimes it's nice to pass things along to other writers, who have a built-in audience for your idea. (This point is also my tiny plug for Lewis Hyde's The Gift. In Chapter 2, he asserts that we keep a gift by giving part of it away. As Hyde says, "...where true, organic increase is at issue, gift exchange preserves that increase" )
5. Print it out, let it sit. I don't print my blog posts (maybe I should!), but I do print my articles and chapters. Then I let them sit for a day or a month. Creating distance between ourselves and a text, as well as seeing it in a different form (paper versus screen) goes a long way towards helping us appreciate the power of deletion.
So that's it. If we let go, we write strong. (Now let me see, where's that delete button...)
Empty Swing photo, by L.L. Barkat.
OTHER SEEDLINGS POSTS ON 'THE GIFT':
The Gift: Take, Eat, This is My Tweet
When Did You Labor, or will Sabbath help your gift go viral?
Womb, Harlequin, and License Plates: The Gift, 1
OTHER BOOK CLUB POSTS:
Laura's Blowing in the Wind