You look at the stuff on the bookshelves and you think:
That’s bad. I could do better than that. But that never really explains how something that bad got picked up in the first place.
That’s good. That’s exactly the kind of thing I should be doing. But that certainty gets forgotten somewhere along the way.
That’s really good. Too good. So good it depresses you. How can you compete with THAT?
And then there’s the sublime. So good it gives you hope. Not just in writing or whatever your chosen field is, just hope in general. That there are some intelligent, insightful people in the world, not just the screaming jackasses (jackasses scream, right?) that represent us on the television.
I still have that hope, I find things here and there that touch me without huge marketing campaigns and celebrities insisting I’m going to love it, really love it. I guess it must have been fun in the old days to not have people telling you what was cool all the time and discovering things for yourself.
Here’s something I stumbled across today that made me feel like, Yes, that’s right. It’s just a simple piece of writing advice but beautifully illustrated. I made a similar point in my post ‘Go With the Flow’ but that was clumsy and longwinded compared to this.
This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
Gary Provost was an unremarkable writer who wrote genre fiction and how-to books, most of which were pretty run of the mill. He died in 1995. But the way he captured the point he was making so perfectly in this piece, and demonstrated it with such elegance, is as pleasing to me as Hemingway’s famed six word story.
Good advice is hard to find. And when you do find it, it tends to be easier to pass it along to others than to remember to follow it yourself. Which is a long, drawn-out way of saying I really need to stop dicking around and get back to writing.