The Grass is Black/The Air is Pink

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#Writing

The Lingerie Theory of Narration (3)

Overcome Overwriting

Sometimes writers become so enthralled with specificity and description that they begin to confuse them with more wordiness. Overwriting, as this tendency is called, is a form of excessive love of language and as such is important and even necessary for writers to indulge in occasionally. The solution to overcoming overwriting is simply to remember the notion of economy and to learn to exercise restraint.

In an effort to conquer her overwriting, an acquaintance of mine used to cut her dearest overwritten sentences (the ones than Annie Dillard says in The Writing Life come with “price tags” attached) out of her manuscript with scissors and deposit them in a manila folder she called her Goddess file. Anytime she was blue or just wanted to see what a brilliant writer she was, all she had to do was open up the Goddess file and admire snippets of her handiwork. If cutting back on adjectives and adverbs and fancy, unnecessary verbs or keeping a Goddess (or God) file doesn’t work for you, you might just have to wait it out. In time, it will pass. But bring supplies along- canned goods and a pup tent- and gather firewood. Sometimes it takes a while.

The important thing to remember is that overwriting occurs when a writer is interested in seducing only herself, when she has become drunk on her own language, inebriated by her own ideas. In the end, overwriting is a date with only yourself, the ultimate lonely hearts endeavor. It’s a lingerie ad posed so elaborately and intricately and with so many signals and cues that no viewer will ever be able to, or want to, fully take in.

words by Julie Checkoway
to be continued…

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