“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.” William Zinsser
If you believe in this sort of thing that the universe tries to tell you something then my lesson for this month is get rid of all the STUFF. The last month I have been doing taxes and trying to rid my life of clutter. I guess it comes home every tax season when I have to completely rip my office apart to find receipts or I find 5 different files that have the same name or my fiction work is mixed in with my American Express bill. I have gotten better over the years but when I caught the last half of Oprah last week on clutter I think I need to pay attention.
And of course clutter can and does carry over in writing. My goal in January was to get all of my poetry together in one spot one folder, one disc, one place and no, Lauri I didn’t accomplish that yet. My thought was that if I got it all together I could see whether I had enough finished, edited work to enter in a chapbook contest or if it was all together I could sit down and go through the Poet’s Market and find a home for each poem. But like every habit you try to change you might need to break it down into baby steps. So for 10 minutes every day this week I will find my poems and separate them into three folders on my desktop. Poems Ready for Submission. Poems Needing Editing. Poems Rough Draft. It’s similar to the donate, throw out or save piles when you are decluttering.
One of my favorite writing exercises on unnecessary words is from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft. Today, write a paragraph or a page without adjectives or adverbs. It must be descriptive. How do you write a descriptive paragraph without adjectives? It’s not easy but it can be done. Now get back to work!
The Writing Nag