As my friends know, I’m not a fanatic of the use of leviathic adages in every day discourse. I find it pretentious.
Which is the worst way I could think of to say, “I don’t like bigs words or the people that use them.”
When I was in 8th grade, a teacher — Mr. Sparks, if I remember correctly — asked me if I was enjoying the novel I had chosen. I don’t recall exactly what was said, but it was something to the effect of, “I think the writer is smart because he uses big words.” (I was in 8th grade, please forgive me.)
Mr. Sparks, being a good teacher, replied, “Sometimes writers use big words to hide their stupidity.”
I remember it to this day, and Mr. Sparks was absolutely right. People who want to sound intelligent use big words and people who are intelligent use the words that work best. I’m not sure where this quote originated from but it goes, “If you can’t explain a topic in a way a 5 year-old understands then you don’t know the topic.”
Which I think applies to writing. Nothing makes for muddled writing quite like muddled thinking. Teasing out good ideas before I put them on the page is a pretty tough process, second only to actually writing things out. The catch is, I don’t do it well alone. I need someone to say, “Wait, isn’t that stupid?” I have to go through a questioning process.
“Who is this character?”
“I’m not sure.”
“And why are they here?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Better figure it out.”
My notebooks are filled with side-thoughts and large sections crossed out because I wasn’t quite sure what it was I was going for. And you know? I’m not entirely sure where I was going with this. Oh well!