“I write lustily and humorously. It isn’t calculated; it’s the way I think. I’ve invented a writing style that expresses who I am.” - Erica Jong
I fully concur with that last sentiment from Jong; every writer has, irrespective of what she writes, a unique style. I believe if you have read from a writer enough, doesn’t matter if it is in the form of books, essays or blogs, you can identify who words them.
This issue features a few brilliant essays from some well-known voices on the importance and effectiveness of writing styles.
Joan Didion wrote an earnest essay in 1998 in The New Yorker featuring some words that Hemingway wrote — and also those that he didn’t. It is an insightful read about a writer who, in Joan’s view, “had in his time made the English language new, changed the rhythms of the way both his own and the next few generations would speak and write and think”.
In September of 1954, Hemingway wrote to Bernard Berenson from Cuba about the adverse effect of air-conditioning on this thing he was doing: “You get the writing done but it’s as false as though it were done in the reverse of a greenhouse. Probably I will throw it all away, but maybe when the mornings are alive again I can use the skeleton of what I have written and fill it in with the smells and the early noises of the birds and all the lovely things of this finca which are in the cold months very much like Africa.”
Paulo Coelho is known for a style of writing which is distinctly spiritual. He, however, does not consider his writing to be about spirituality, “I am free to do something different every time”. It is his apt belief that “every human being on this planet has at least one good story to tell his neighbor” that I firmly associate with.
In this essay, he reflects “on some important items in the process of creating a text”.
Above all else, the writer has to be a good reader. The kind that sticks to academic texts and does not read what others write (and here I’m not just talking about books but also blogs, newspaper columns and so on) will never know his own qualities and defects.
So, before starting anything, look for people who are interested in sharing their experience through words. I’m not saying: “look for other writers”. What I say is: find people with different skills, because writing is no different from any other activity that is done with enthusiasm.
Here’s Kurt Vonnegut again with a few more advice on writing style from his vast treasure trove of published and spoken words. His advice, just as his books, is eternal.
Why should you examine your writing style with the idea of improving it? Do so as a mark of respect for your readers, whatever you’re writing. If you scribble your thoughts any which way, your readers will surely feel that you care nothing about them. They will mark you down as an egomaniac or a chowderhead or, worse, they will stop reading you. The most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not.
Featured Writer - Matt Gemmell
I have been reading Matt since, back when he used to write mostly about technology. Since then, he has gone on to publish some thrilling novels. Matt has a clear mind and an astute way of putting complex thoughts into words. Besides, he has a long list of some profound essays reflecting on his life and some advice on writing & productivity. Here’s an excerpt from one of his essays where he talks about confidence.
Confidence is a little trickier to muster when you’re pre-judged due to the incidental fact of being female, or when your viewpoint can be dismissed as down to uncontrolled emotion, or timidity, or hormones. When perceptions of your physical power become an albatross around your neck, and when the default compliment is not about your abilities, but rather your appearance.
Featured Tool - Hemingway Editor
A short, simple app that intends to be “a spellchecker, but for style”. You may decide not to agree with all the suggestions it provides. Nonetheless, it is an extremely valuable editing tool.
Too often, our words are like our thoughts — innumerable and disorganized. Almost any bit of writing could use some cutting.
It is always useful to run your prose through someone who can tell you as a reader which parts are unnecessarily difficult to understand. You can then consciously decide if it is intentional on your part. If so, leave it there. If not, listen to Hemingway. Make it easier for the reader.
One Final Inspiration...
Have any recommendations or feedback for me? I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply, or you can even email me.
Thank you for reading and sharing.