Panning for gold

One time I read that if you write a sentence that you’re absolutely in love with, that you think is nothing short of pure brilliance, you should strike it from your work. Even if–no, especially if–you think it perfectly captures the very essence of the point you are trying to make, get rid of it.

As someone who loves words and practically swoons over a precisely crafted sentence, I really struggled with this concept. The more I thought about it, however, the more I began to see the wisdom behind it. I believe it boils down to two things.

  1. If you think it is perfect, it will get in your way. You run the risk of becoming so enamored with your own brilliance that the rest of your work will suffer. Chances are, whatever you’re writing will start to situate itself around your bright and shiny expression in an effort to showcase its very brilliance. Instead of making your point, you’ll be pointing to your words. 
  2. Actually removing your golden nugget will force you to rev up your creative alchemy. You’ll be forced to think of other ways to express yourself, and hopefully you’ll land on the one that will speak your readers’ language rather than your own. That’s when you might even decide that your golden nugget was actually iron pyrite, fool’s gold.

This is still difficult for me to put into practice, and I’m still guilty of breaking this rule more often than not. I find, however, that times when I do follow it, my writing is better for it.

3 thoughts on “Panning for gold

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  1. I like the point about using your target audience’s language. Our message is never going to be received exactly the same way as we perceive the transmission. If nothing else, we all have different biases, perceptual filters, and life experience on which we’re drawing.

    Perhaps if we are that emotionally attached to our perfectly crafted sentence, it could cause what I’ll call entrenched camp symptoms when others don’t see it in the same context or with the same affection.

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