If you have ever been involved with a writing critique group you have heard these three suggestions:
- Show, don’t tell.
- Avoid cliches.
- Less is more.
These are basic, but sometimes we writers get so wrapped up in our story we drop in a, “Jacky was tired at work every day.” Instead of, “To her colleagues, Jacky looked as if she were deep in concentration, but she had mastered the ability to sleep with her eyes open. Only if you were up close could you see the bloodshot scribbles of veins on her eyes.”
Telling an entire story can make it as a flat as a pancake. And with cliches like that you’ll need to sweeten it up with a lot of syrupy editing.
Getting to the point of this post: Less is more. Several years ago I started a tradition of simplification. I have a fairly large closet (sometimes used as an office) that has accumulated a lot of clothes over the years. By “over the years” I mean I still wear clothes from when I was 14. (I always ask people if they’re vintage yet.) Any time I get a new shirt, whether a gift or I purchase one myself, I go through my closet and I pick two shirts to give away. Any time I get a new pair of shoes, I go through my shoes and give two pairs away.
A while back I described this process to poet Angelika Teuber, founder of Living Poetry, and she said, “You know, this means you will have less of everything.”
That’s the point!
One of my favorite bloggers who now resides in Asheville, Renaissance Rebecca, did a fun post on a more extreme level here. Having less makes you appreciate what you have more. In writing, the less you write means it will have more impact on the reader—which means you have to choose your words carefully.
Yes, this is such a cliche post for a lady to tie in a metaphor of clothes and shoes to writing, but I could have said more and it would have meant less.