Two toads wrestling in water
These toads look like they’re embracing, but they’re actually wrestling. Photo by Ken Goulding.

Wrestling with the Writing

This evening over FaceTime, my friend Andrew gave me an idea. Usually his ideas are epic! Distant galaxies, alien races, resonant human emotions… these are the hallmarks of the stories that interest him. Imagine my surprise when he suggested writing micro blog posts. What are micro blog posts? Let’s find out!

They say that brevity is the soul of wit. If so, I am a buffoon. Verbosity is my default setting. My father’s past criticisms of my work always spoke to this. He would say, “I have to pause to take a breath when reading your sentences. Ever hear of a period?” These were not his exact words, but the point stands.

Writing is like vomiting. Instead of food, you are upchucking the contents of your imagination. Sometimes those contents are recent. Other times, they’ve been rattling around in your cranium for decades. Because the results are always messy, for me at least, editing is essential.

Editing is what I couldn’t, nay, wouldn’t do in my youth. The thought of editing would make me feel sick. Did I lack the skill? Yes, but more crucially, I believed my work was beyond reproach. Pride stagnated my growth as a writer. I can recognize this now.

When someone would give me editing suggestions, the effect was like a wrestler squeezing my windpipe between hairy, tattooed arms. My ego was locked in a stranglehold. The only way to break free was to set my work aside, let time pass, and reassess it with fresh eyes. Older, possibly-wiser eyes.

Decades would pass before I wrote anything of considerable scale. My creative output has, admittedly, slowed to a glacial pace. I have learned how to edit—thankfully—but I fear that I’ve forgotten how to write. Reading my old works makes me want to alternately laugh and cry. This is discouraging, but it gives me hope. Now I can at least recognize my incompetence.

I should thank my father for not sugar-coating the truth. Overall, I do aim to write shorter sentences. Last November, when tackling a novella, the opposite was true. Longer sentences sped me closer to my daily goal, but the results were an incomplete and bloated first draft. Perhaps that’s the nature of National Novel Writing Month. Regardless, it’s easier to write more than less!

I’ll conclude this “micro blog post” with a quote whose author is ultimately unknown.

I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.

—Blaise Pascal