Write it quickly, then rewrite it quickly. Edit for clarity. Publish.
French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once noted: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” If you want to write clearly, limit your writing time. Leaving any extra will sabotage your efforts. Leave less to take away.
While writing hastily might make you wordy, wordiness is easily corrected. Tangents, on the other hand, fed with your time and attention weave themselves into your prose and are much harder to remove. With a strict deadline, you simply don’t waste your time breathing life into these distractions: they’re dead on arrival. Remove them as you would any other word or phase that doesn’t directly contribute to your point.
Be generous with your time and you’ll over-think style choices when you should be focusing on clarity. Instead, force yourself to get to the point: your inner wordsmith will surprise you with its dexterity.
Lastly, remove any jargon or needless words. (Unless you can’t help yourself. Make sure to point out your hypocrisy.)
This post is an edited version of the previous post. I budgeted 5 minutes—it took 12. Forgive me, but I had to get a glass of water to debate whether or not to include this final remark. It ultimately made the cut because I’m tired and would rather go to sleep than ponder this any longer.
September 22, 2010 at 1:16 am.
Write it in 10 minutes. Rewrite it in 10. If it’s successful, publish.
French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery once noted: “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” If you want to reduce cruft in your prose, limit your writing time. You’ll get to the point much more quickly when you don’t have time to do much else.
While haste yields wordiness, it’s easily corrected. You’re no longer reigning in ill-born concepts that have threaded themselves deep within your thesis: when you write quickly, those tangents don’t have time to stifle your point for very long. Eradicate them, ruthlessly! Take away anything that doesn’t directly contribute to your point. Rewrite if confusing.
Give yourself too much time to write and you’ll get cute—you’ll be more concerned with style rather than with clarity. But, pressure fosters creativity: force yourself to get to the point and your brain will wordsmith a clever way to express whatever it is you want to say. You might surprise yourself how artful you can be.
This post was rewritten from the former in 10 minutes. How’d I do?
Don’t think too hard—just write it. And publish it. In 10 minutes.
The most difficult part of writing is knowing when you’re done. There’s a famous quote (which this exercise prohibits my diligence in looking up the speaker and the exact quote) that says: “Perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away.” If you want to reduce the cruft in your writing, limit the time in which you have to write it.
The result? Clarity increases. Your points, articulated cleanly, strengthen themselves.
While wordiness may increase due to your haste in expressing yourself, your thought process is not littered with tangents and ill-born concepts that get in the way of your message. Editing then becomes simple: take away anything that doesn’t directly contribute to your point. Rewrite if confusing.
When you give yourself too much time, you get cute. You write sloppily. You think: “oh, there must be a better, more colorful way of saying it.” There might be, but 9 times out of 10 you were better off with the first thing you wrote. Your brain is special like that: the magic comes from forcing yourself to express it quickly and thoroughly, and you will surprise yourself in how artful you can be when you limit the time in which you have to think about the language to use.
This post was written in 9 minutes. How did I do?
September 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm.